Back in February 2019, I cautioned in that an op-ed to get Euronews which Croatia’s largest trial of this decade would hand Russia the secrets to Europe.
Less than a year after, Russia might have these keys — and maybe on the edge of utilizing these to unlock Putin’s longstanding plans to destabilize the EU.
Only days before Croatia took its place in control of the EU, the nation’s largest trial came to an abrupt decision together with the announcement of this court judgment against head of energy team MOL, Zsolt Hernadi, that had been found guilty of bribing former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to permit MOL to seize control of Croatian state energy company INA.
The issue is both renowned legal experts, appointed as impartial Trial Monitors from the decade-long legal conflict, have accused Croatian state prosecutors of”prejudice,” breaching EU fair trial standards and breaking the rights of the defendants — seemingly to cover-up a covert Russian lobbying surgery to control a gasoline transshipment route to Europe.
I’ve read that the 182-page interim report, and it corroborates in unnerving detail lots of the inquiries and worries I raised earlier in my Euronews op-ed relating to this particular trial.
First point to notice is that the Trial Monitors who composed the report hail from the top echelons of judicial experience in Europe; specifically Judge Kai Ambos, seat of criminal law in the Georg-August-University Göttingen at Germany, a judge in the Kosovo Specialist Chambers at The Hague and Counsel in the International Criminal Court, together with Lord David Anderson QC, a Judge of the Courts of Appeal of Guernsey & Jersey, where he’s also the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and formerly the UK government-appointed Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
Ambos and Anderson were made to audit the fairness of the criminal proceeding under explicit instructions to behave independently of any of those parties in the instance. Their decisions increase stark questions regarding the corruption of Croatian associations under the sway of Russian interests.
These include not allowing the defense adequate prep period, excluding the general public from crucial factors in the trial without recording from the court minutes, and imposing an ex officio’ lawyer unilaterally appointed by the court and thus breaking up the right to select legal representation, to mention only a couple of issues.
In themselves, these grave irregularities beg the question about how a nation whose judiciary is considered by leading legal experts to run without a regard for EU fair trial criteria might wind upholding the EU presidency itself.
However, the trial tracks’ report goes farther, alluding to the economic background of Russia’s attempts to co-opt Croatia as an entry-point to EU energy markets.
The Croatian state anti-corruption bureau USKOK is accused of failing to research the star witness for the prosecution,” Robert Ježić along with his business partner Swiss attorney, Stephan Hürlimann.
As the report notes,” Mr. Hürlimann’s function at the laundering of the alleged bribe continues doesn’t seem to have been fully scrutinized… USKOK has neglected to explore applicable areas of inquiry regarding Mr. Ježić’s authenticity and its conduct of this analysis raises problems of impartiality. Mr Ježić’s authenticity is placed in issue by his standing as an accomplice, his advantage of $5 million along with his private interest in Mr. Hernádi’s certainty”
Both stated that Ježić had”stolen” $5 million in Gutseriev, supposedly given to Ježić to reception that the Croatian authorities on behalf of this Družba Adria job — a longstanding Russian Airways strategy to transfer Russian electricity to Europe throughout the Croatian port of Krk.
Like me, Judges Ambos and Anderson were shocked that none of all those issues were properly researched by USKOK nor given serious attention in the trial. Ježić himself confessed to the court that he utilized the amount to gain his businesses rather than passed any of it to Sanader. And he neglected to return the cash to the courtroom.
The Trial Monitors notice these details, then criticize USKOK’s”failure to research the evidence given by Mr Fazakas and Mr. Gutseriev to ascertain whether Mr Fazakas had stated concerning the cash might be demonstrated or disproved.”
In a nutshell, the report offers alarming documentary proof of Croatian judicial corruption beneath the abiding influence of Russia. Additionally, it indicates that Croatia’s EU Presidency could pose a severe threat to European safety.
The Council of the European Union has seen as lacking liability because of excessive secrecy. The EU must make sure that Russia doesn’t leverage its sway in Croatia to exploit its EU presidency for a proxy for Russian energy interests.