Mystery surrounds criminal complaint filed over Croatia's Agrokor

Mystery surrounds criminal complaint filed over Croatia's Agrokor
By bne IntelliNews September 27, 2017

The founder of troubled Croatian food and retail giant Agrokor, Ivica Todoric, has denied being behind an anonymous criminal complaint filed against Minister of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts Martina Dalic and Agrokor’s government appointed trustee Ante Ramljak.

Todoric’s denial was a reaction to media reports that an anonymous person had filed a lawsuit against Dalic, Ramljak and several other people connected with the compulsory administration of Agrokor, as well as its largest bondholder Knighthead Capital Management. They were accused of a series of criminal offences including abuse of office. 

Agrokor, one of the largest employers and suppliers in the SEE region, is undergoing a restructuring process after a debt crisis pushed it to the brink of collapse earlier this year. In June, Agrokor secured €480mn worth of fresh financing from bondholders led by Knighthead and domestic banks including Zagrebacka Banka.

The anonymous complaint was filed to the State’s Prosecutor’s Office (DORH) and sent to another 40 state officials, representatives of the parliament, political party leaders and media, Jutarnji list reported.

The State’s Prosecutor’s Office (DORH) said it has received the complaint and launched regular procedures, according to the daily. 

The newly filed compliant states: “planning ahead to take over Agrokor… and to secure for themselves personally unlawful material gain at the expense of Croatia and its economy, Martina Dalic together with Ante Ramljak, with the aim of destroying Agrokor’s value, organised and led a criminal association within which they accepted and approved the purchase of 49% of Agrokor’s bonds at a 70% lower price to Knighthead fund… This was done in order to secure material benefit of €70mn to the fund and the same time there was a long list of conflict of interests of all members of the criminal association.” 

It also accuses a group comprising various individuals and firms of plotting to destroy Agrokor, preparing the ground for its handover to the government back in 2016. 

Speculation that Todoric was behind the complaint was sparked by his recent announcement that he would sue the government over the adoption of “Lex Agrokor” — an  emergency law adopted by April with the aim of protecting the stability of the national economy by offering assistance to systemically important companies that cannot repay their debts.

In mid-August, Todoric said he was planning to sue Croatia for alleged losses the company has suffered due to Lex Agrokor, under which management of the group was transferred to the state for a period of 15 months, Total Croatia News reported on August 16. On September 22, Todoric wrote on his blog that the government had schemed to take over his business, drawing up Lex Agrokor in order “to make private ownership public by taking control over Agrokor”, as well as claiming he was forced to sign the bill. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has rejected all Todoric’s claims. 

However, Todoric denied any connection to the anonymous complaint. “Taking into consideration the text about criminal compliant which has showed in media today, I claim that neither myself nor any of my associates filed the complaint… I stand strongly behind all my words and sign all of them personally. It will be like this with upcoming lawsuits,” Todoric wrote on his blog.