Ljubljana related

28 Jun 2022, 16:30 PM

STA, 28 June 2022 - The Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal by former PM Janez Janša against the statute barring of the Patria defence deal bribery case. While Janša felt denied a chance to prove his innocence, the top court claims he had no legal interest, as statute barring is fully equivalent to an acquittal, meaning he is considered innocent.

Janša, whose 2013 conviction for bribery in a 2006 tender won by Finnish defence contractor Patria was quashed by the Constitutional Court in April 2015 and sent into retrial that later became statute barred, published the ruling on Tuesday.

He wrote on Twitter that "After more than 15 years of the Patria saga the caricature of Slovenian rule of law ended with the pronouncement of innocence".

Janša, who had already spent 145 days in jail before a retrial was ordered, had appealed the 2016 Supreme Court ruling, which had upheld the view of the Higher Court from November 2015 that Janša could not appeal a decision that was in his favour.

The Supreme Court also argued that statute barring the case, involving a deal worth EUR 278 million and Janša's alleged accepting of a promise of a bribe for which no direct evidence was presented, is fully equivalent to an acquittal or a case dismissal.

Moreover, while nodding to Janša about the case actually falling under the statute later than claimed by the first instance court in September 2015, the Supreme Court argued this would still have happened before a retrial could end and would thus change nothing.

Janša meanwhile claimed violations had occurred of the articles of the constitution on equal protection of rights, the right to justice, the right to a remedy and the principle of legality in criminal law.

21 Feb 2022, 16:02 PM

STA, 21 February 2022 - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption has cleared Prime Minister Janez Janša over his socialising with a well-known lobbyist and a businessman while holidaying on the island of Mauritius when he was still an opposition leader.

The commission said today it had found no breach of anti-graft legislation in Janša's socialising with lobbyist Božo Dimnik and businessman Andrej Marčič in Mauritius, so it closed the case. Nor did it establish violations in public contracting in the case of Marčič's IT company, but it did issue some recommendations.

Photos showing Janša in the company of the pair in Mauritius in 2003 were published last summer by the news web portal Necenzurirano. The commercial broadcaster POP TV later released photos showing Janša on Marčič's yacht in 2016. Janša was an opposition leader on both those occasions.

The media speculated the socialising may have been contentious because Marčič's company Integralis in 2020 won the contract awarded by the government secretariat to overhaul a database and supply specific systemic and IT equipment. Dimnik is a prominent lobbyist, whose daughter owns a major supplier of medical product.

The commission, which can only handle cases not older than five years, said it did not find any violations of the integrity and prevention of corruption act in Janša's contacts with the two businessmen, contracting with Integralis or relocation of the headquarters of the consulate in Mauritius.

The watchdog said not every contact between public and private officials can automatically be defined as lobbying. It has also not received no complaint about suspected lobbying against Janša or other concrete information in that respect.

However, the watchdog has established certain corruption risks and a suspicion of violation with respect to the National Review Commission's powers in the case of public procurement by the government secretariat.

25 Jan 2022, 12:39 PM

STA, 25 January 2022 - Slovenia placed 41st among 180 countries in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in its poorest showing since 2013 to lag even further behind the average for EU and OECD countries.

Compared to last year, Slovenia slid six spots and lost three points to score 57, which compares to the EU average of 64 and the OECD average of 67 points, follows from the CPI report, released by Transparency International (TI) on Tuesday.

TI Slovenia believes such a result is the product of "the efforts to prevent corruption being pushed to the political margins", years of failure to implement sweeping reform and some bad practices in recent years.

"After years of stagnation, recurring scandals, pressure on the media, civil society and independent institutions it has expectedly come to this decline, which is cause for concern. In the super-election year, we need clear commitments from political players to stop the decline and reverse the trend," commented Samo Bardutzky, the interim head of TI Slovenia.

He believes one of the first tests will be putting in place legal protection of whistleblowers. TI Slovenia believes the bill presented in December is faulty, urging more inclusive dialogue to improve it and calling on political players to commit to adopting a comprehensive protection for whistleblowers.

Bardutzky warned that decisions taken during the Covid-19 epidemic "broadly encroached on fundamental human rights that are important for control of government", something that has been detected by the international Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in its latest (IDEA) report.

In releasing the latest index Transparency International noted a lack of progress in most countries and historically low scores posted by 27 countries, observing the curtailing of fundamental rights and a decline in democratic standards across the globe.

Two out of three countries in the index scored less than 50 points with the average score at 43. Apart from Slovenia, 26 other countries recorded their lowest score in a decade.

The index is topped by New Zealand, Finland and Denmark, which all scored 88, ahead of Singapore, Sweden and Norway, which scored 85 points.

The lowest scoring Slovenian neighbour is Hungary, which ranks 73rd with 43 points. Croatia ranks 63rd with 47 points and Italy 42nd with 56 points. Austria is 13th with 74 points.

The index measures the perception of corruption in the public sector, with 0 points indicating a high level of corruption perception and 100 points a very low level of perceived corruption.

It collates data and analyses from international institutions that measure perception of corruption through the eyes of business representatives, analysts and experts. This year's index relies on independent sources, TI Slovenia said, adding that data had been collected in the past 24 months.

See the full report here

21 Dec 2021, 11:14 AM

STA, 21 December 2021 - UPDATED at 14:30
Almost 35 investigators searched private homes and offices looking for information and evidence of suspected criminal acts involving over EUR 1 million in unlawful gains. The investigation is part of a pre-trial procedure launched two years ago by the Specialised State Prosecution, the General Police Department said.

Five persons are suspected of money laundering, of whom two are also suspected of abuse or office or trust in business activity. No-one was detained for the duration of the house searches, the police said in a written statement.

Janković confirmed to the press the police investigators had searched his home and his wife's shop, the home of his son Damijan Janković and his partner Ursula Gavish, while also investigating the Electa company. According to Siol news portal, the investigation also targets the businessmen Gregor Marolt and Jan Bec.

Police was interested in his wife Mija Janković's paid bills, seized 32 bills and a phone, which Janković said could have been obtained from the bank or at the company. "To my surprise, this time they did not need me, they checked individual bills with my wife," he said at a news conference.

While saying the house searches had been carried out "correctly", Janković criticised the accusations, saying "what is written in the indictment is empty and will bring no results". He quoted his lawyer's words that "the election campaign has already started", adding he was sorry for his wife and kids, blaming it all on Prime Minister Janez Janša.

Janković did not reveal any other details, and admitted he had not had the time to read the 120 pages of accusations.

He noted the trial against him, both of his sons and Electa is continuing today over alleged dodgy deals involving retail Mercator shares and tax evasion.

He said the Financial Administration had completed a procedure which is a basis for the trial without finding any wrongdoing, so he believes that since nothing could be found against him, the authorities have now decided to target his family.

The General Police Department said the suspicion of abuse of office was related to damaging a company controlled by two persons through ownership and managerial posts, as EUR 1.24 million was transferred from it to two companies, both of which are controlled by one of these two persons.

Then, EUR 1.04 million was transferred from these two companies to several other legal and physical persons that withdrew the money in cash to conceal its origin, hence the suspicion of money laundering.

Abuse of office in business carries a prison sentence of one to eight years, whereas money laundering carries up to eight years in prison and a fine, the police said.

16 Dec 2021, 12:14 PM

STA, 16 December 2021 - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) has launched an investigation against Prime Minister Janez Janša on suspicion of a conflict of interest in management reshuffle at the bad bank.

The procedure was launched based on the watchdog's initial findings in regard to appointments at the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), which confirmed suspicion of a breach of the integrity and prevention of corruption act.

The investigation was launched to determine whether there has been indeed a conflict of interest in the appointment of a non-executive director at the bad bank, the KPK said on Thursday.

The prime minister has been notified of the developments and will have all the rights during the investigation procedure in line with the relevant regulations and will be able to explain his actions, said the watchdog, adding that it could not give more details as the investigation is ongoing.

The BAMC board of directors includes executive and non-executive directors. The board's chairman is Franci Matoz, who is also a non-executive director. Other non-executive officers are Gregor Planteu, Aleksander Lozej and Alenka Urnaut Ropoša.

The bad bank published an open call today seeking applications for an executive director post.

Matoz, a prominent lawyer, was appointed the chairman in July. Planteu was named a non-executive director on the same day. Matoz is known as a long-time legal representative of Janša and his Democratic Party (SDS).

The watchdog confirmed for the STA in August that it was looking into the circumstances of Matoz's appointment as the chairman of the bad bank's board of directors and other recent management reshuffles there. The inquiry was based on a report that the anti-graft body received in May.

Responding on Twitter, Janša accused the KPK of double standards, saying it did not deem the moonlighting by Court of Audit boss Tomaž Vesel for FIFA for EUR 20,000 corruption while it did find as such EUR 200 on the account of former Agriculture Minister and DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec when the need arose to bring down the government.

"Kos-Klemenčič-Štefanec-Šumi is a chain of double standards," the PM tweeted referring to the people who have so far headed the KPK.

14 Dec 2021, 20:01 PM

STA, 14 December 2021 - Centre-left opposition MPs clashed with PM Janez Janša during Tuesday's question time in parliament over what they claim is mafia-style governance of the country by Janša, his SDS party and the government. Janša dismissed the allegations, while saying mafia-style governance indeed exists, has very deep roots, yet comes from the transition left.

According to the Left's Matej T. Vatovec, when Janša is in opposition he bills himself as the one who will eliminate corruption, but once in power, "the story flips upside down and in a few years or months, we have enough corruption scandals for a decade".

He pointed to scandals that broke out since Janša's government assumed office in March 2020, such as face masks, rapid antigen tests, purchases of ventilators from Janša's brother, the scandal involving the environment minister, etc.

The MP claimed that most of the cases become statute barred because the Democrats (SDS) know how to exert pressure on judges and take over the police force to "make sure everything is swept under the rug".

Dismissing all the allegations as "lies and insinuations", Janša said "you have actually more or less made up or twisted all this to avoid discussing the actual behind-the-scene criminal doings in this country".

As deputy groups presented their views, Robert Pavšič from the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) criticised the government for violating the constitutions and encroaching on laws, while he also took issue with "brutal staffing and interference in a number of the country's vital subsystems".

The Social Democrats' (SD) Marko Koprivc said anything is possible "under Janšism, including the dissolution of the rule of law", as he pointed to pressure on the media and attempts to undermine NGOs.

Unaffiliated MP Janja Sluga highlighted the complications with the appointment of European delegated prosecutors, Janša meeting medical suppliers and their lobbyists, the role of his lawyer Franci Matoz in state-owned companies, Hungarian millions spent on advertising in the SDS-owned media and the construction of the Koper-Divača rail track.

Marko Bandelli from Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said this government "is drenched in corruption and applies mafia approaches, which is revealed in every scandal."

On the other hand, coalition MPs said Slovenia has seen mafia doings since its very beginning. "Even before the country became independent, the leftist political forces tried to prevent its independence," said Danijel Krivec from the ruling SDS.

Listing what he sees as mafia doings, Krivec highlighted former President Milan Kučan allowing in the spring of 1991 the Yugoslav People's Army to disarm Slovenia's Territorial Defence, the launch of the Patria defence scandal against Janša, a billion dollars in Iranian money laundered at the NLB bank to finance terrorism, etc.

Similarly, the SMC's Monika Gregorčič blamed it all on the non-transparent privatisation after Slovenian became independent, saying it resulted in a privileged elite, the so-called transition left, gaining political power.

This elite enabled systemic solutions to its liking to be adopted, while the economic power acquired in this way opened the door to all social subsystems, including the media. "The circle was thus completed, producing a system that could be termed a para-state or a deep state," said Gregorčič.

New Slovenia's (NSi) Andrej Černigoj also pointed to the TEŠ power station being overpaid by half a billion euro and to the bank shortfall of EUR 5 billion under centre-left governments.

Janša commented on many of the scandals mentioned by the coalition, criticising the opposition for not criticising violations when perpetrated by people from their own ranks. He dismissed the criticism about the judiciary saying candidates without experience or a graduation diploma could be appointed judges. "This is the state being run mafia-style."

A heated debate followed also after Janša left the session, with the LMŠ's Pavšič suggesting the session be closed to the public to present some confidential documents, which the MPs did not endorse in a secret vote. Finding it unimaginable the MPs would not want to discuss specific criminal dealings, he said the vote "proves we live in a mafia state".

08 Dec 2021, 09:12 AM

STA, 7 December 2021 - Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and six co-defendants pleaded not guilty in a case concerning alleged wrongdoing related to the air conditioning engine room of the Stožice Sports Park at Tuesday's pre-trial hearing. The defence was critical of the evidence presented by the prosecution and proposed certain pieces of evidence be excluded.

In addition to Mayor Janković, the co-defendants include his son and director of the company Electa Damijan Janković, former director of the power distributor Energetika Ljubljana Hrvoje Drašković and Zlatko Sraka, the retired former director of the construction company Energoplan.

Also being charged in the case are Uroš Ogrin, a former employee of the bankrupt construction company Gradis, Boštjan Stamejčič of the company Baza Dante and the company Electa Inženiring.

The indictment says that Energetika Ljubljana, following an intervention by Janković, purchased the premises for the air conditioning engine room at Stožice for EUR 3 million from Grep as the builder of the sports park, although the latter was not the owner, but only the holder of the right of superficies.

It adds that the contract signed prior to this arrangement stipulated that Energetika Ljubljana will get these premises free of charge.

The price for the premises had first been set at EUR 1.2 million, after which it was decided to additionally charge Energetika Ljubljana for the premises for the air conditioning engine room that had already been paid for.

An annex was added to the original purchase contract, with the cost ballooning to more than EUR 3 million, and the complicated circle of financial transactions that followed included companies connected with the Janković family.

According to the prosecution, some of the money has ended up directly on the mayor's account.

All six individuals and representative of the indicted company pleaded not guilty at the Ljubljana District Court, with Janković's lawyer Janez Koščak saying that the evidence was unclear.

He asked the court to order the prosecution to specifically elaborate what was being proven with each piece of evidence and, like the majority of representatives of the defendants, he submitted a request for exclusion of evidence.

"Of course the defence claims that everything is unlawful," prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar said after the pre-trial hearing, adding that the prosecution would reply to the proposal, "and then we will carry on with the proceedings.

All our stories on corruption and Slovenia

07 Dec 2021, 13:50 PM

STA, 7 December - One should wait for a more detailed analysis of the situation in Slovenia regarding the prosecution of crimes against the EU's financial interests, the bloc's chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi has told the STA. However, given the statistics so far, she has zero doubts that the country's European delegated prosecutors (EDP) will be "very busy".

Slovenia's two delegated prosecutors Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir assumed their offices on 1 December, hence the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) has been launched in the country after a months-long delay in the appointment procedure.

It is too early to give any assessment of the current situation, but the EU's chief prosecutor told the STA on Monday that she had no doubts the office will launch investigations in Slovenia.

As concrete investigations get under way, it will become clear how the police and other law enforcement authorities work and how ready they are to cooperate with the EPPO.

The EU's recovery fund will bring more money, "more flexibility, less rules", meaning higher risks to see more crimes against the EU's budget, she said, noting that the level of detection of such crimes should be stepped up. Slovenia is not alone when it comes to having a detection system that should be improved.

Slovenia's State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa told Monday's joint press conference with Kovesi that there are 20-30 investigations currently open in the country. The cases will now be transferred to the EPPO office in Ljubljana.

On top of these investigations, delegated prosecutors Frank Eler and Oštir will also help out their colleagues in other EPPO member states in cross-border investigations involving Slovenia. "They will be very busy," Kovesi said.

Commenting on the delay in appointing the Slovenian delegated prosecutors, the EPPO head said: "It was a huge problem because we couldn't investigate cases from Slovenia." This also affected the cross-border investigations, she added.

"This was a big problem in the entire architecture put in place by the EU to protect the European money because it was a gap in the EPPO zone."

Kovesi reiterated what she already said at the online press conference on the occasion of her visit to Slovenia - that the appointment of Frank Eler and Oštir is final.

"According to the EPPO regulation, no member state can dismiss European delegated prosecutors because they would like to appoint different ones. They are appointed for five years. This is the end of the story."

Commenting on the government-sponsored changes to the public prosecution legislation that would enable the government to recall delegated prosecutors and give it a greater say in their appointment procedure, Kovesi insisted that "no national legislation can contradict the EPPO regulation".

"The EPPO regulation and EU legislation have priority over any national law; this is the rule." If there is a provision that is in breach of the regulation, the EPPO informs the European Commission of this. They already did this in relation to some provisions in other member states, she said.

The terms of delegated prosecutors are renewable and the EPPO college can appoint them for another five years, she added.

The regulation does not set down how the EPPO members should nominate their EDP candidates, and the methods vary according to the participating countries, but all their justice ministers were urged to make sure the procedures are transparent and based on an open call, including Slovenia's former Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič.

So far, Kovesi has not had an official meeting with the country's current Justice Minister Marjan Dikaučič.

Asked about reasons for not meeting him today, she said: "I did not ask for a meeting, I came here to talk with the prosecutors about the problems we have in the EPPO and challenges. I don't have anything to discuss with the minister of justice at this moment. Maybe in the future we will have something to discuss."

She also highlighted the points made at the news conference about the importance of judicial independence, noting that any attempts against judiciary are an attempt against the rule of law.

If there are attempts to undermine the independence of prosecutors, they should stand up, she said, adding that "they are not alone" as the EPPO is also an independent body. "If you are not independent, you cannot be efficient," she said.

07 Dec 2021, 10:59 AM

An earlier version of this story used the incorrect figure of 13.5% of GDP - the correct figure is 7.5%

STA, 6 December 2021 - Some estimates suggest that Slovenia could be losing up to EUR 3.5 billion a year due to corruption, Robert Šumi, the head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (Komisija za preprečevanje korupcije - KPK), said ahead of International Anti-Corruption Day. If these funds were allocated to help the poor, nobody in Slovenia would live in poverty, he illustrated.

If corruption were successfully prevented, everyone could enjoy a higher quality of life, have better access to medical and social services, quality education and jobs, and the country would develop faster at all levels, Šumi told the press on Monday.

The estimated EUR 3.5 billion annually lost to corruption in Slovenia amounts to 7.5% of the country's GDP.

If there were no corruption, each individual could annually receive an additional EUR 1,660 from the state, or every pensioner could receive an additional EUR 460 a month.

More than 20,000 non-profit apartments could be built or the state could subsidise warm meals for primary and secondary students in the next 24 years, Šumi said, stressing that this was why it was important for every individual to be active in preventing corruption.

He said the commission's main goal was to prevent corruption, while many people wrongly believe it should also prosecute perpetrators and punish them. The country has law enforcement for that, he explained.

"Our job is to create the conditions where corruption will no longer pay, where the danger of being reported will be bigger that the gain from corruption," he said.

However, without the support of a wide range of stakeholders, the commission cannot hope for a breakthrough.

Šumi underlined the importance of integrity of top state officials and their closest associates, as well as all public sector employees.

In the face of the upcoming triple election next year, he urged everyone who wishes to be active in politics to start implementing the existing rules, which Šumi believes are exemplary.

The commission also called for the transposing of the EU directive protecting whistleblowers to Slovenian legislation as soon as possible to help create an environment where reporting corruption and other irregularities would be easier and safer.

This year's International Anti-Corruption Day under the auspices of the UN is being held under the motto Your Right, Your Role, Say No to Corruption.

05 Nov 2021, 07:27 AM

STA, 4 November 2021 - Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak stepped up his defence of a 2007 conversation with the businessman Bojan Petan after new recordings were published by POP TV. He told the press on Thursday that his goal was to protect the interests of the state in a takeover of the spa company Terme Čatež and he had a clear conscience.

The original recording, released in mid-October, implied that Vizjak was encouraging Petan to dodge taxes. Vizjak had described it as a "collage" and said today the latest leaked recording proved that was indeed the case as the original leak contained only fragments of the real conversation and those were put in a misleading context.

In the recording released yesterday, Vizjak, then the economy minister, is heard proposing to Petan a "gentleman's agreement" on how to move forward with the privatisation of Terme Čatež, offering a variety of solutions, for example a tie-up with nearby spa Terme Olimia, which was in the process of privatisation at the time.

He also told Petan that the way he was going about the privatisation of Terme Čatež was bound to end up in court, adding that the government would counter his moves with "all cannons" and that they might "squeeze a judge's nuts" to achieve their aims.

Vizjak acknowledged this latest recording was authentic - POP TV had it checked by forensics to prove its authenticity - but said it should be seen in the context of the management of state-owned assets at the time, when the state was still directly the owner of multiple companies, and efforts to protect state interests.

He said he wanted to "prevent actions damaging to the state" and protect state property. "That is my sin," he said, adding that he always had honest intentions.

Vizjak also regretted his statement about "squeezing a judge's nuts," which he said was made in an informal context and was inappropriate, adding: "Whoever is without sin should cast the first stone."

Vizjak also sticks by his original claim that "garbage lobbies" are behind these tapes since actions he is taking now as environment minister are threatening to destroy their exploitation of legal loopholes.

"These collages are designed to discredit me because of the projects we are conducting, in particular the bill on the protection of the environment," he said about legislation that the government adopted today.

Vizjak believes that the way Terme Čatež was acquired was a "criminal and stupid act". Petan and some other people involved are being tried in Koper for financial exhaustion of Terme Čatež, he said.

Petan is charged with two offences - abuse of office in managing a company before the takeover of Terme Čatež and abuse of office within the supervisory board of Terme Čatež and at Marina Portorož, Vizjak said.

Petan responded in writing, saying that the "truth always comes out", POP TV reported.

The head of the Directors' Association, Gorazd Podbevšek, rejected Vizjak's claim that the deal making had been in line with the rules and the laws of the time.

"This was not only unethical but also illegal 15 years ago as well. We had the companies act back then, which has to be systematically violated for someone to be making deals like that, and the takeovers act, which bans deals between parties before they make a takeover offer," Podbevšek told POP TV.

Having a minister make deals on behalf of a company and its shareholders also involves major corruption risks, he added.

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