United Kingdom extradites Ivica Todorić

Autor:

09.11.2018.

Croatian businessman Ivica Todoric emerges from the Royal Courts of Justice with his wife Vesna, and one of his legal team, Cherie Booth, after the court ruled on his extradition, in London, Britain, October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Henry Nicholls / REUTERS

Ivica Todorić emerges from the Royal Courts of Justice with his wife Vesna, and one of his legal team, Cherie Booth, after the court ruled on his extradition, in London, Britain, October 25

To get released, he will claim he was in London on business.

At 16:50 Wednesday, finally, after exactly one year of the legal battle over extradition, Ivica Todorić, the founder of the bankrupt Agrokor agribusiness and retailing conglomerate, took off from London to Zagreb on a regular Croatia Airlines flight escorted by Croatian police officers. He was scheduled to land at 20:05 but the arrival was a bit late.

During a year-long legal battle, the British courts rejected all Todorić's arguments against extradition to Croatia, where the arrest warrants, international as well as domestic, awaited him. After landing at the Zagreb Airport, Todorić was taken to the Remetinec detention center in southwest Zagreb with police escort, to the already prepared cell.

Two cases, 17 witnesses

More than a year ago, the investigative judge of the Zagreb County Court ordered pre-trial detention to prevent Todorić influencing the specific list of 17 witnesses. That order is still the basis for his current stay at Remetinec. The Zagreb County Office of the State Attorney (DORH) is expected to interrogate Todorić as soon as possible, in connection with two separate cases. The first is the principal case of presumed complex fraud at Agrokor, while the other is the case of questionable covert funding of Agrokor by the Nexus Private Equity Partners investment fund, through its subsidiary, Nexus ulaganje. The total value of the fraud presumably incurred by the accused in the first case is approximately HRK 1.5 billion.

The other investigation, launched in December last year, concerns the 2016 loans the prosecution deems unlawful, which the Nexus Private Equity Partners gave to Agrokor through Nexus ulaganje. In addition to Ivica Todorić, the investigation includes his son Ivan Todorić, Nexus president of the board Marko Lesić and member of the board Krešimir Ružđak. The prosecution charges them with enabling Agrokor to gain HRK 47.5 million in unlawful profit at the expense of the investors.

Interrogation at Selska street

Formally speaking, Todorić should thus be questioned twice, in connection with two separate cases. According to the current practice, the questioning will be carried out in the Selska Str. examination room at the Zagreb Police HQ, because Todorić is a detainee. In the case he is allowed to defend himself from liberty, he will be questioned at the County DORH facility in Savska Str.

As he has been in London over the past year, the questioning will be the first formal opportunity for Todorić to respond to the charges filed against him by the prosecution. Whether he will stay behind bars at Remetinec or not is a separate question without a clear answer. If he does stay, it is equally difficult to predict how long. However, some things are certain. With Todorić's arrival to Remetinec, his appeal against detention filed in October last year, which the court has failed to consider so far, has been activated. He has not spent any time in detention before Wednesday.

The appeal was filed against a decision ordering Todorić's detention with the aim to prevent his influence on the 17 witnesses. Today, that aim is beside the point. The prosecution has questioned 16 of the 17 witnesses on the list. It could not reach the last one, whose residence is in the Netherlands. The court may theoretically decide to keep Todorić detained until that last witness has been questioned, but that may well be a violation of his rights.

New request for investigation

The defense may at any time file the so-called 'proposal to end investigative detention' due to new circumstances affecting the case. Specifically, the defense will almost certainly request the release, pointing out that it is not Todorić's fault that the DORH was not able to question all the witnesses in a year's time. [Anyway, the latest news is that the prosecution has dropped that last remaining witness from the list.] The defense cannot suggest a release on bail, because - under the latest amendments to regulations — bail can only be used as a bar against the possibility of escape, and not in the case of danger of influencing the witnesses.

It is certain that Todorić' detention based on the current court order will be annulled sooner or later. However, that will not be the end of the detention story. Namely, the DORH has another ace in its sleeve against Todorić. It could file a request for a new investigation, concerning the case of the Nexus investment, and this time demand detention because of the danger of escape.

The DORH tried a double demand strategy last February, but the County Court rejected it, ruling that detention could not be set for two different reasons at the same time. If Todorić's current detention, ordered because of the danger of influencing the witnesses, is curtailed, the demand based on the possibility of escape remains as the backup.

Only the court ruling on the danger of escape will show whether Todorić will be released anytime soon or not. The DORH can obviously cite his flight to London as evidence of danger, just as it did in February. The defense will then claim that he did not actually flee but had gone on a business trip — and the warrant for arrest found him in London.

Five more months

Unlike the case when detention was set due to the danger of influencing the witnesses, the new rationale — the danger of escape — allows the possibility of letting Todorić out on bail.

As far as the progress of the cases is concerned, according to legal deadlines, the prosecution still has about five months to raise an indictment in the principal Agrokor case and about eight months for the Agrokor-Nexus case. They are the so-called 'instructive' deadlines, meaning non-binding.

However, as we hear from the prosecution, the intention is for both cases to be prepared within those deadlines and the indictments raised. In the principal Agrokor case, all witnesses except for the one in the Netherlands have been interrogated. After that, the case was sent to what is probably the most complex financial-forensic expertise in the history of Croatian white collar crime. It is under way at KPMG in Poland. This forensic investigation is the last part of the process to be conducted before the indictment is filed.

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Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version