Croatia probes ex-economy minister for graft: Agency
Police are investigating Croatia's former economy minister over his alleged role in malpractice in one of the country's biggest food companies, report said.
Police are investigating Croatia's former economy minister Damir Polancec over his alleged role in malpractice in one of the country's biggest food companies, state news agency Hina reported on Thursday.
Polancec is the most senior cabinet official to be probed for corruption to date. The latest action underscores Croatia's revamped anti-graft efforts -- a requirement for advancing Zagreb's European Union membership bid, which it hopes to complete this year.
The anti-corruption police Uskok said only that it was investigating a 43-year-old man as part of its probe into food group Podravka.
But Hina and all other local media, including state television HRT, named the suspect as Polancec, quoting sources close to the operation.
Polancec said he was not aware of any investigation.
"I found out from journalists, I have no official information," Polancec told a local electronic news outlet, Media Servis. He said he would readily comply with investigators' demands.
"I would like to say some things, as so many things have been exaggerated or distorted," he added.
Polancec had been deputy prime minister in Ivo Sanader's conservative cabinet. Sanader quit unexpectedly last July and his successor Jadranka Kosor declared war on corruption.
Polancec stepped down in October after a series of corruption scandals in Podravka that prompted the police to arrest a number of current and former Podravka managers.
Polancec, who had been a manager in Podravka before joining the government, denied any wrongdoing and said he was quitting "to avoid hurting the government".
Podravka managers are accused of planning to take over the company using its own funds to buy the firm's shares over the past three years. No indictments have been raised yet.
Kosor's anti-corruption efforts have been reinforced by this month's election of a new president, Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic, who pledged full support to her campaign.
The former Yugoslav republic hopes to join the EU in 2012, but must first intensify the fight against corruption, overhaul its inefficient judiciary and public administration, sell loss-making shipyards and cut high state subsidies.
Former Defence Minister Berislav Roncevic, whose trial opens on Jan. 29, became the first senior government official indicted for corruption in October.
Roncevic was accused of cancelling a tender to buy army trucks and striking a deal directly with suppliers whose price was 10 million kuna ($2.06 million) higher than that of the tender winners. Roncevic has denied the charge. The police have in the past few months also arrested a number of managers in state road company HAC and local bank HPB on corruption charges.
Reuters Last Mod: 22 Ocak 2010, 11:12