USKOK launches probe into ex-ministerial advisor in Mreza TV scandal

NEWS 30.01.202410:17 0 komentara
Nikola Cutuk/PIXSELL

After having conducted inquiries, the USKOK anti-corruption office has launched an investigation into Jurica Lovrincevic, a former special advisor to former economy minister Davor Filipovic, for influence-peddling.

Filipovic was dismissed as Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development after the Nacional weekly ran an article saying that Lovrincevic offered to the Zagreb-based local television network Mreza TV the lease of advertising space to a number of state companies and institutions in return for half of the agreed amount to be paid to him.

Without revealing the suspects’ identities, USKOK said that it suspected Lovrincevic of having used, from October 2023 to 12 December 2023, his authority as a special ministerial advisor and member of the Steering Board of the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, to ensure financial gain for a person of his trust, using money from the state budget.

USKOK suspects that Lovrincevic had interest ties to the person of his trust, who hosted programmes at the local TV station whose content suited Lovrinčević and was used by him to convey information which he had as a special advisor.

The prosecutors suspect that Lovrincevic saw to it that Mreza TV was hired to advertise the activities of the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency and that the money paid for that job was taken from Mreza TV’s bank account based on false documentation and handed in cash to the person of his trust.

Being aware that in late 2023 the Fund would launch a campaign to inform the public about two of its projects, Lovrincevic asked that the Fund also hire Mreza TV for the campaign, for €90,000.

Considering Lovrincevic’s authority, responsible persons at the Fund accepted his proposal not knowing the real purpose of his actions.

Lovrincevic then asked the person of his trust to convey to the manager of Mreza TV his plan to siphon from the TV station’s account, based on a false contract and invoice for services that would never really be provided, a part of the money that was to be paid by the Fund for the services rendered, and have the money handed to the person of his trust.

USKOK notes that that person, acting on Lovrincevic’s instructions, hired the manager of a company to make fake business documentation necessary to pay money from Mreza TV’s account. The director of Mreza TV then signed with the company’s manager a contract based on which Mreza TV received an invoice dated 28 November 2023 which was to have served to siphon money from its account.

“After that, on 6 December 2023, the suspect’s person of trust asked the director of the said company to cancel the invoice, which he did,” USKOK said.

Minister dismissed over scandal, reporter accuses minister

Media reported previously that Lovrincevic arranged the lease of advertising space and division of money at Mreza TV with Mreza TV reporter Marin Vlahovic, noting that the two were connected by Marko Ljubic, a programme host and editor who at the time worked at Mreza TV.

Even though Ljubic’s name was mentioned in the context of money sharing in transcripts of conversations between Lovrincevic and Vlahovic, which Vlahovic recorded secretly, Ljubic said that Vlahovic was lying and that they did not share any money.

Vlahovic said in the “Otvoreno” programme on Croatian Radio-Television that War Veterans Minister Tomislav Medved had asked him to stop writing about him, offering him “a kind of cooperation.”

Responding to the reporter’s accusations, Medved dismissed insinuations of his involvement in corruption and bribing of the media, explaining that in 2021, during work on the removal of earthquake damage in Petrinja, he talked to Vlahovic, but exclusively for the purpose of objective reporting on support to the earthquake victims.

Medved maintained that the case was an attack by a part of the media close to the opposition, Lovrincevic and the opposition Most party against the government, which he said was evidenced by electronic communication between Most MP Nikola Grmoja and Vlahovic.

Medved also said that the purpose of accusations about his involvement in corruption was to shift attention from Bridge’s involvement in corruption.

After his dismissal as Economy and Sustainable Development Minister, Davor Filipovic said that he had not been aware of the siphoning of public money to the media but that he assumed political responsibility.

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