The former boss of Croatia’s food and retail giant Agrokor and 14 others have been charged with a multi-million euro fraud, prosecutors said Tuesday, in the biggest business scandal to rock the country.
At the centre of the case is Ivica Todoric, a 69-year-old tycoon who fled Croatia in 2017 and was extradited from London the following year before bailing himself out of a Zagreb prison.
An indictment filed to the court accused him and others, including his two sons and other former top executives of Agrokor, of “abuse of trust” and “forging of official or business documents”, prosecutors said in a statement.
Todoric himself illegally gained more than 122 million euros while the alleged crimes cost the firm over 1.2 billion kunas (159 million euros, $189 million), prosecutors said.
The Zagreb-based company, which changed its name into Fortenova during restructuring last year, is the biggest employer in the Balkans with two-thirds of its 50,000 workers in Croatia. A large network of suppliers provide tens of thousands more jobs.
Todoric slammed the indictment as a “historic shame on Croatia’s judiciary” and accused the government of being behind a “criminal plan” to seize the company from him.
He has repeatedly branded the investigation against him as politically motivated and – we have accused senior members of the Croatian government of orchestrating the company’s 2019 takeover.
After amassing more than seven billion euros in debt, Agrokor was saved from bankruptcy last year after creditors backed a multi-billion euro debt deal with Russian state-owned Sberbank.
Sberbank is now the largest single stakeholder with a nearly 40 percent stake.
The legal case is the most complex ever of its kind in Croatia and the file has more than 80,000 pages, prosecutors said.
Earlier this year Todoric faced a trial in which he is accused along with three other suspects of syphoning 1.2 million euros from Agrokor by paying for fictious consulting services. (AFP)