EU Prosecutor Launches Probe into Bribery in Croatia

Published: 18 July 2022

Waste WaterThree Croatian nationals arrested for the alleged abuse of funds from the EU Waste Water Treatment Project. (Photo: You Belong In Longmont, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

The European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) said on Friday it was investigating three Croatian nationals who are suspected of bribery linked to a US$23.91 million EU-co-financed waste water project.

The three were arrested a day earlier on request of the EPPO.

“It is alleged that, between May 2021 and 14 July 2022, the three suspects made an arrangement in which the first defendant would be granted the tender for the execution of the Extension and Reconstruction of the Waste Water Treatment Plant Project (WWTP Project) in the Croatian city of Varaždin,” read the statement.

On behalf of their companies, the second and third defendants would ensure that the first defendant secured the contract in exchange for monetary compensations.

“It is understood that the monetary reward for the second defendant was an unspecified percentage of the total value of the WWTP Project,” read the statement.

It further said that the third defendant’s award was settled in the form of the first defendant’s firm contracting one of the third defendant’s companies as a subcontractor in the execution of works inside the WWTP Project, to the tune of 9.6 million euro ($9.68 million).

The EPPO did not release the suspects’ identities, but Croatian media did.

Daily newspaper Večernji list cited unofficial information saying that the police in the city of Varaždin arrested a former city councilor, Robert Gotić, member of the country’s ruling Croatian Democratic Union, ex-director of the city’s water supply company Varkom, Željko Bunić, and a local entrepreneur, Stjepan Ptiček.

The EPPO said it will ask the investigating judge in Croatia to order pretrial custody for the three suspects.