Croatia's anti-graft agency launches new probe into Dinamo Zagreb chief

Croatia's anti-graft agency launches new probe into Dinamo Zagreb chief
By Carmen Simion February 9, 2016

Croatia's anti-graft agency USKOK has launched a new probe into Zdravko Mamic, the executive director of the country’s top football club Dinamo Zagreb, for alleged embezzlement.

This is the third investigation to be launched against the most powerful man in Croatian football in the last year. He is suspected of tax fraud, bribery and siphoning funds off from the club, resulting in total losses of at least €27mn for Dinamo.

In the latest probe, Mamic is suspected of siphoning of at least €9mn from the football club, according to a February 8 statement on USKOK’s website. The investigation is based on the findings of the finance ministry’s tax fraud investigators.

Apart from Mamic, the investigation targets his brother Zoran Mamic who is the club’s coach, and his son Mario as well as former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanovic, businessmen Igor Krota and Sandro Stipancic, and one other suspect, Hina news agency reported.

Mamic and the other suspects are believed to have concluded fake contracts between Dinamo and companies from Hong Kong, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK, the US and several Caribbean countries for fictitious brokering services in player transfers. The companies would then send invoices for the services, which were paid by Dinamo.

Moreover, Mamic is also suspected of concluding contracts that allowed certain players to receive 50% of future transfer fees, which should have been paid entirely to the club, and that this money then ended up in foreign companies.

The Mamic brothers were first arrested in mid 2015 on suspicion of tax evasion, bribery and other offences, which were reported to have cost the football club HRK118mn (€7.6mn) and the Croatian state HRK12mn.

In November, Mamic was placed in investigative custody after the finance ministry’s tax fraud investigators found that €10.1mn and £500,000 had been siphoned from the football club through offshore companies since 2004.

Dinamo Zagreb is at the top of the Croatian First Football League (Prva HNL), having won most of the titles since the league was established in 1992. However, the club has performed less well internationally, being eliminated from the 2016-2017 UEFA Champions League in the first round.

Despite the club’s popularity, Mamic is a controversial figure in Croatia, where he has made several violent verbal attacks on journalists and public figures as well as insulting ethnic and sexual minorities.

In 2010, he said gay men could not play for the Croatian national team as they were better suited to being “ballet dancers, writers or journalists”. However, the Zagreb County Court later rejected complaints filed by gay rights organizations.

He also insulted and made racist comments towards former sports minister Zeljko Jovanonic whom he called a “Croat hater” and an “insult to the Croatian brain”, due to his Serbian origins. “Jovanovic hates everything Croatian, a Serb cannot lead the country’s most important department,” Mamic said in 2013, according to local media.