22:04 / 20.02.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

More details emerge in Horvat case

Darko Horvat, Ana Mandac

Darko Horvat, Ana Mandac

Foto: Arhiva/Goran Stanzl / PIXSELL

On Saturday morning Darko Horvat was still construction minister but by evening he was in prison, swept up in the latest corruption probe to rattle the government of Andrej Plenković.

Horvat was swept up by police in an early morning raid on Saturday. He is suspected of handing out 2.6 million kuna in illegal subsidies that were awarded under a program that aimed to boost small businesses in minority-populated areas. Another six individuals are under investigation in the same case. Among them Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević.


More details emerged on Sunday from the investigation including texts from the mobile phone of his former assistant, Ana Mandac, which could be important evidence in the case. The crimes Horvat is suspected of allegedly occurred while he was economy minister in 2018.


Horvat's lawyer, Vladimir Terešak, believes the deposition of another suspect in the case, Ana Mandac, led to his arrest.


"Mrs. Mandac gave a remorseful deposition on Friday that allegedly lasted more than three hours. It is our conjecture that during this deposition she shifted the blame onto others to improve her own position. You must be aware that besides being a suspect in this case, she is also a suspect in the Wind Farm Case. We believe her statements aimed to improve her own case."


Mandac is a suspect in another corruption probe that revolves around wind farm subsidies in which former Josipa Rimac, the former mayor of Knin, is also implicated.


Željka Pokupec, Mandac's lawyer, confirmed that her client was questioned by investigators from USKOK, the anti-corruption agency, on Friday bud denies Mandac is cooperating under a plea deal.


Terešak said that Horvat told investigators that he trusted Mandac implicitly and was someone he brought into the ministry to serve as his assistant.


“He signed whatever papers she brought before him,” Terešak told reporters.


However, the text messages suggest Horvat was aware he was being asked for favors. In one exchange Mandac asks him about the relevance of a certain company, “How important is the Eko Kotor on a scale of 1 to 10?”


Horvat responds “9” and she replies “OK”.


Soon after, the company was granted a subsidy.


It seems that former MP and now Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević was also playing favorites with subsidy applicants. He allegedly first sent Mandac a table with the names of 15 companies that “need to” get money, and then added another 7 firms.


"Let me know when it arrives. Is there any news for these 7?" Milosevic asks Mandac in a text.


Mandac replies: "It should be OK, but we are waiting for harmonization."


According to sources, around a million kuna in extra funding was found for Milosevic's picks. This raised some red flags, prompting one colleague to text Mandac with the following warning:


"If you talk to the Minister, warn him that if the audit finds these grants, he will be held accountable. There is no legal way to award grants to those who have not earned enough under the clearly stated criteria of the Grants Program."


Horvat was reportedly cautioned by other government bureaucrats but did not heed their warnings.


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