Controversial former Ambassador to US Joško Paro likely to take over Embassy in Brussels



Zagreb, 100412.
Predsjednik Republike Ivo Josipovic urucio je, u svom uredu na Pantovcaku, vjerodajnice novom hrvatskom veleposlaniku u SAD-u Josku Pari.
Na slici: Josko Paro.
Foto: Dragan Matic / CROPIX
Dragan Matić / HANZA MEDIA

Joško Paro

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović will soon hand credentials to Joško Paro, the new Croatian Ambassador to Belgium, now that the State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (USKOK) has dismissed charges against Paro ‒ the President's Office confirms to Jutarnji List.

It seems that the case will soon be closed and Paro will go to Brussels despite the fact that he is not one of Grabar-Kitarović's favorites. In March 2017, she warned the State's Attorney Office (DORH) of the State Audit report on the Embassy in Washington, DC, which said that, during Ambassador Paro's mandate, the former embassy building in the Spring Valley area was sold for USD 2.245 million.

The buyer then refurbished it and resold for as much as 5.5 million. While waiting for a new embassy building to be acquired, Paro stayed at the hotel, which cost the Foreign Ministry USD 7,000 a month. In addition, he used part of the money received from the sale of the old building - USD 66,000 - to buy furniture, even though the budget did not envisage such an expenditure. It was a breach of the Budget Act.

In July, the President, in agreement with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, appointed eight new ambassadors to Israel, Belgium, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Algeria, the Republic of Korea, and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Paro did not receive his credentials, though. He had to wait until the end of the investigation of charges against him. According to claims heard in diplomatic circles, he enjoyed Plenković's support.

Last week, political secretary of Most (The Bridge of Independent Slates, a small opposition party) Nikola Grmoja dug out a new case and accused Paro of unlawful payments made with state money at the Washington Embassy. "In 2017, the State Audit Office found that the Embassy in Washington had unlawfully paid USD 268,000 to local [contractors]," said Grmoja.

Soon afterwards, however, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs announced receipt of a September 19 ruling by USKOK that rejected criminal charges filed by ministry secretary Damir Sabljak concerning the appointment of Loreta Bertoš-Kušen, MSc. to Australia, as well as Sabljak's allegations concerning the findings of the State Audit Office in the case of payments to local contractors by the Embassy in Washington during 2016, while Paro was the Ambassador. In other words, Paro has been absolved of all suspicion and can go to Brussels.

This is far from the first scandal at the Embassy in Washington. A former employee was found spying on the family of the then Ambassador Kolinda Grabar Kitarović. On her part, she was found to have used the official embassy car for private purposes. The worst case, however, has been that of former Ambassador Neven Jurica, sentenced to a year and half in prison for gambling away USD 120,000 in embassy funds.