Investigators freeze assets of suspects in gas trade scam

ZAGREB, Aug.27 (Hina) — Investigators have frozen assets worth more than HRK 800 million belonging to five people arrested on Saturday on suspicion of wrongdoing in the gas business and money laundering, while the damage they would have caused to the oil company INA is estimated at more than 800 million HRK.

The operation, launched early Saturday morning by the USKOK anti-corruption office and the police, targeted Damir Škugor, an INA executive, Josip Šurjak, president of the Croatian Bar Association, Šurjak’s business partner Goran Husić, with whom Šurjak owns the OMS Upravljanje company, Škugor’s father, and Marija Ratkić, chairwoman of the board of the gas company Plinara Istočne Slavonije.

Following the arrests in Zagreb, Šibenik, Vinkovci and on the island of Hvar, investigators searched the homes and offices of the suspects, including Škugor’s office at the INA and the Šurjak law firm based in Zagreb, who was arrested in Hvar.

Decision on investigation, police custody on Sunday

Following the arrests, the suspects were questioned at USKOK, which is expected to say on Sunday whether an investigation would be opened into the suspects and a request would be made to place them in custody.

The suspects, whom prosecutors want to place in police custody for a month, will be brought before an investigating judge on Sunday who will rule on the prosecutors’ request.

According to unofficial information, the suspects embezzled money from the INA through OMS Ulaganja, which was established in 2019. Already in the first year of activity, the company allegedly earned revenues of more than HRK 220 million.

The suspects allegedly took advantage of the constantly rising gas prices on the world market, with OMS Ulaganja buying gas below market prices from Plinara Istočna Slavonija, which had already entered into a gas purchase agreement with INA at favorable prices , and selling it on the international market at market prices.

Millions of kuna in the bank accounts of a pensioner from Šibenik

They allegedly spent the money thus obtained on real estate, most of it ending up in the bank account of the father of Damir Škugor, a pensioner living in Šibenik.

Without naming the suspects, the USKOK said the arrests and the urgent collection of evidence were the result of a criminal investigation carried out with the PNUSKOK anti-corruption police office, the money laundering prevention office and the division financial investigations of the tax administration.

USKOK said that after questioning the suspects, it would make a decision on how to proceed.

Police said that after the criminal investigation, they would file a criminal complaint against the suspects with USKOK and take them into custody.

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