Fake texting scandal: data from investigation increasingly unpleasant

Autor:

04.10.2018.

Zagreb, 150618.
Trg svetog Marka.Sabor RH.
Sabora raspravlja o Izvjescu o provedbi Zakona o pravu na prostup informacijama.
Na fotografiji: Milijan Brkic.
Foto: Damjan Tadic / CROPIX
Damjan Tadić / CROPIX

Milijan Brkić

PM Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday evening, in the context of the scandal with fake text messages [a.k.a. 'SMS affair'], that the talk within the HDZ party on the case was very open, and that the situation must surely be very uncomfortable for the party vice-president Milijan Brkić.

If information coming from sources close to the investigation is any indication, the situation for Brkić is not just politically uncomfortable, but the legal angle appears to be getting ever more unpleasant, too. His associate Franjo Varga, suspected of forging text messages from judiciary officials to fugitive football entrepreneur Zdravko Mamić, has been arrested and is in detention. His best man Blaž Curić, a driver at the Ministry of Agriculture, has also been arrested and detained, under suspicion of tipping off Varga about police surveillance on the evening of September 20.

As Jutarnji list has already reported, the investigators wiretapping Varga over a few days managed to record his telephone conversations with Milijan Brkić ‒ as well as with former HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko ‒ before the secret surveillance was blown.

Varga's services

Jutarnji has also learned from several independent sources that during questioning at the USKOK [the Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption] Varga directly referred to Brkić as having used his services. However, any information about the kind of information that was proved impossible to obtain. The same goes for the information on whether any documents or other evidence found in Varga's computers could substantiate his testimony.

The investigators are probing not only Brkić's contacts with Varga, but also his relationship with the other detainee in the case, Curić. Given that Brkić and Curić are friends and Curić was Brkić's best man, their frequent contacts and telephone calls are not generally controversial. However, the investigators are specifically interested in the contacts made in the week of Varga's arrest. As we have learned through informal channels, it has been established that Brkić and Curić were in contact on September 20, the very day Varga was tipped off about wiretapping. The police are now trying to determine whether those contacts are related to a later call to Varga, made from a disposable cellphone somewhere in the Dubrava area of Zagreb. Curić is suspected of having made that call. It remains to be seen whether data from the mobile devices seized in the search of Curić's home will help the investigation. Milijan Brkić can certainly count at least on being a witness in the proceedings against Varga and Curić.

FC Dinamo money

In parallel with trying to find out how the information on the secret surveillance measures has come into the hands of unauthorized persons, including Curić and Varga himself, the investigators are also looking at Varga's "home business" ‒ the services he rendered and the orders and payments he received. After publishing the information that Varga had received half a million kuna from Zdravko Mamić and related persons for the fake transcripts of text messages and for alleged tips in the investigation of the embarrassing drawing of a huge swastika on the grass of the Poljud football stadium in Split, we also learned that one of the 'related persons' in question was FC Dinamo.

Varga apparently used the money to purchase and equip his house in Belišće, including a Jacuzzi and an expensive new laptop. It seems now that at least part of the material and equipment purchased, including the Jacuzzi, was bought and paid for with funds of the Maksimir-based football club ‒ to wit, on the club's official credit card. It is thus quite possible ‒ if the information proves to be correct ‒ that an arm of the investigation will be directed at the persons who made the dubious payments and, more importantly, those who had given them orders.

Opposition offensive

The opposition, additionally spurred by the news of leaks from the police that had compromised an investigation into prostitution, has launched an initiative for a parliamentary investigative commission on abuses of all systems of the state. (Apparently, Milijan Brkić is involved in that scandal, too.) The opposition cannot count on support of the HDZ for this initiative. Just as in the case of the bankruptcy of the Agrokor agribusiness and retailing conglomerate, the ruling party invokes the provisions of the Investigative Commissions Act, which preclude the establishment of such bodies for matters that are simultaneously subject of judicial proceedings. Party secretary Branko Bačić has stressed that "the SMS affair has ended up at the Osijek County Court, which means that the circumstances have arisen that preclude the established of a commission, or, if it has already been established, stops its activity".

Social Democratic (SDP) party president Davor Bernardić has said he will not permit the HDZ to sweep the scandal under the rug, "as it wanted to to with the Borg scandal" [concerning Agrokor]. According to him, "the most recent case shows that the security system is broken and that the citizens cannot be provided protection from crime".

The opposition wants to put a debate on all cases of abuse of the system, not just the most recent one, on the parliamentary agenda. "This is not about the investigative commission for the SMS affair", said Bernardić. "It is about the commission that would investigate the abuses of all [state] systems. If Plenković's errand boy Bačić says they will not support the commission, it just means that Plenković is trying to hush it up."

Problem of institutions

Peasant Party (HSS) president Krešo Beljak said that Plenković "cannot be exculpated because he is the most responsible person in the country". He recalled that both before and after Plenković had become the party president, Brkić was his closest party associate.

For Nikola Grmoja, the political secretary of the Most party, the scandal is not a problem of a particular person, but of the institutions that do not perform their jobs, being under political influence. He noted that the information leaks seem to appear only when it suits the people in power. "We will not accept Prime Minister's conceit that this is not a pleasant situation for Brkić", he said. "It is unpleasant for the [entire] HDZ." He added that it was the least pleasant for the citizens of the country.

Referring to the latest scandal involving the investigation of prostitution, he concluded: "I hope we will get to see who is the pimp here and who the prostitute."

Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version