US Authorities Should Censure Croatia’s Politicians Mired in Corruption — Review US Taxpayer Aid Sent to the Balkans

WASHINGTON, DC — RIJEKA, CROATIA — Croatia’s corruption is the highest in the Balkans and one of the highest in the world when measured by data compiled of the globe’s illicit financial outflows via crime corruption and tax evasion. Over $35 billion left Croatia via crime, corruption and tax evasion during the years 2005–2014. The stolen taxpayer funds amount to 73% of the Balkan nation’s GDP. Such significant amounts of illicit financial outflows are hemorrhaging the moribund economy.

In addition to Croatia’s rampant corruption, fueled by Croatian politicians and their private partners in crime, the electoral process is rigged with one million illegal voters for a country of four million citizens.

Today, over 600,000 court cases are stuck in the parlous judiciary, some lingering for more than a decade.

In order to join Euro-atlantic institutions, without establishing the rule of law, Croatia’s politicians paid Western lobbyists. America’s self-proclaimed conservatives were complicit in propping-up criminal figures. A recent US-led initiative must be applied across the Balkans, and specifically aimed at addressing colossal corruption with NATO members.

On September 10, 2018, the US State Department announced the “Public Designation of Nikola Spiric Under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act of 2018.”

The US State Department’s statement relays the following:

The Department is publicly designating Mr. Nikola Spiric, a member of the House of Representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act of 2018, due to his involvement in significant corruption. Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. Mr. Spiric engaged in and benefited from public corruption, including the acceptance of improper benefits in exchange for the performance of public functions and interference with public processes, during his tenure as a member of the House of Representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their family members. In addition to the designation of Mr. Spiric, the Secretary is also publicly designating Mr. Spiric’s spouse, Nada Spiric, his son, Aleksandar Spiric, and his daughter, Jovana Spiric.

This principled measure must be applied to all of the politicians in the Balkans. In Croatia’s political circles, the issues of unexplained wealth and allegations of corruption should be addressed by local embassy staff members reviewing anti-corruption reports, specifically documents written in local languages. The US State Departments’ country desk staffers have a responsibility in following through by informing key principals within the US diplomatic arena rather than expending time by propping-up corrupt government officials from the Balkans.

It is time for the US Senate and House of Representatives to begin a thorough review of how billions of US taxpayer funds have been spent in Croatia and the rest of the Balkans.

In the early 2000s, the USAID agency poured over $500 million into Croatia. US taxpayers should demand accountability of funds sent to Croatian municipalities including the cities of Zagreb, Rijeka and Split. Croatia’s politicians mired in allegations of corruption including Milan Bandić and Vojko Obersnel should be held to account.

At the national level, Croatia’s politicians who are part of the ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Croatian Peoples’ Party (HNS) should be censured.

“HDZ is a criminal enterprise.” — Croatian Judge Ivana Calic, Zagreb, March 11, 2014.

Elected leaders and those addressing the problems in the Balkans should focus on the anti-corruption trial, named “Fimi Media” after a PR agency which was used by ex-premier Ivo Sanader and his party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) to embezzle millions of euros from state-owned companies to finance the party and its politicians. These funds directly benefited senior HDZ politicians.

The HDZ elite included Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, now president of Croatia, benefited from questionable campaign contributions and the illegal voter list.

The presiding judge in the case of HDZ’s Ivana Calic stated,

“This sentence is a message that political corruption is evil, that abuse of power to extract personal material or other benefits is shameful, is not tolerated and, in the end of the day, does not pay back. The first defendant [Sanader], with his behaviour, showed an attitude which is not an exception today in the political and public life, which is that there is a perception that politicians are above the law. In the period of the crime [the end of 2003 — January 2009], the legal entity HDZ was in power which means that because of a majority in the Sabor [parliament] it adopted laws, governed the state and its repressive apparatus among others. When this and such a legal entity violates the laws, it undermines the foundations of the rule of law because everyone should ask themselves what message is this to the citizens when those in power violate the laws but those who have elected them are required to obey them”.

In charging the HDZ political party, Justice Calic further stated,

“This is a message to all legal entities, political parties, therefore to their members, about what the responsibility of political parties is and that everyone will pay for their misdeeds, including those who are not directly involved in the specific crime. In this case, just like the heirs pay the debts of their predecessors, the parties’ responsibility as legal entities stems from natural persons who are responsible. The citizens who are deprived of rights, who became poor and lost belief in institutions because the greed of the so called elites has led those who elected them to misfortunes. This sentence is also a compensation because the convicts will pay back everything they took as benefits.”

In the United States, Britain and across continental Europe, taxpayers and voters are calling for greater transparency and accountability of how taxpayer funds are used. For decades, taxpayer funds from the West have been sent to corrupt networks. It is high-time to begin investigations into how American and European taxpayer funds have been used in countries like Croatia and the rest of the Balkans.

Censuring corrupt politicians from Croatia, affiliated with the HDZ, SDP and HNS political parties will be a principled measure in tackling the region’s colossal corruption. Citizens are demanding justice.



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