A Zagreb court has detained five people for a month for questioning in relation to an oil and gas deal that lost Croatian firm INA 1 billion kuna ($132 million).
Croatian anti-corruption authorities arrested the suspects on Saturday over the formation of a company accused of receiving low-priced supplies from mid-2020 to mid-2022 before selling them abroad for a substantial profit.
Launched by USKOK, the operation targeted Damir Škugor, an executive in INA; Josip Šurjak, president of the Croatian Bar Association; Šurjak’s business partner Goran Husić, co-owner of the OMS Upravljanje company; Škugor’s father; and Marija Ratkić, board chair at the Plinara Istočne Slavonije gas company.
Following the arrests throughout Zagreb, Šibenik, Vinkovci, and on Hvar island, investigators searched suspects’ homes and offices, including Škugor’s office at INA and the Zagreb-based law firm of attorney Šurjak.
The suspects allegedly took advantage of the ongoing rise in gas prices on the world market. OMS Ulaganja bought gas below market prices from Plinara Istočna Slavonija, which had an earlier gas purchase agreement with INA. The group then sold the gas on the international market at market prices.
One of the suspects arrested was an INA manager.
The group purportedly made a profit of 800 million kuna which they then invested in property, said the Croatian State Prosecutor’s Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (USKOK).
The largest shareholder of INA is Hungarian oil and gas company MOL at 49.08%. The Croatian government holds a 44.84% stake, with the remainder divided between small shareholders.
The Croatian Economy Minister Davor Filipovic held an urgent meeting with the firm on Monday.
“INA management will have to give us many answers,” Filipovic told reporters. He said he was unaware of the fraudulent contracts while he was on the supervisory board.
MOL released a statement saying it condemned the activities of the group, and thanked the efforts of the Anti-Money Laundering Office in uncovering the case. MOL pledged its full cooperation in the investigation.
As a first step in the case, the Vice-President of the Supervisory Board of INA, Jozsef Molnar, requested an extraordinary Supervisory Board meeting.
At the meeting, MOL members are expected to propose the launch of a thorough internal investigation into the case, and to “make the internal investigation available for the authorities.”
Earlier this week, investigators froze assets worth more than HRK 800 million belonging to the five suspects in relation to the case.
There was no immediate comment from INA at the time of writing.
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