EU prosecutors arrest former Croatian minister for fraud
The Luxembourg-based European Public Prosecutor's Office arrested four people, including a former Croatian minister who oversees EU programmes in the country, on suspicion of fraud against the bloc's budget on Wednesday - the second high-profile case against individuals from the Balkan state in four months.
Prosecutors suspect that in 2017 and 2018 the unnamed minister abused her position by tweaking procurement standards to buy an IT software from two companies above market value and without public tender, EPPO said in a statement on Thursday.
The fraud against the EU and the Croatian state amounted to €1.8 million, the fraud-fighting agency said. Money from an EU grant provided 85% of the funds used to buy the software, EPPO added.
The minister also instructed the director of the Croatian public procurement agency, who reports to the minister, to turn a blind eye to the scheme and tell others to do the same, according to EPPO. Both the director and two people linked to the companies that benefited from the fraudulent contracts were also arrested.
It is the second high-profile investigation the fraud-fighting prosecutors are conducting against Croatian politicians after an official was investigated in July for taking bribes in return for steering a recycling centre contract that involved EU funds.