Zagreb, June 7 (IANS) A Croatian court found the former boss of GNK Dinamo Zagreb football club, Zdravko Mamic, guilty of financial crimes and sentenced him to six and a half years in prison.
The case involves the embezzlement of transfer fees for Croatian footballers Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren ($18.5 million) and defrauding the state budget of $1.9 million in unpaid taxes and surtaxes, reports Xinhua news agency.
In the same case, Mamic’s brother Zoran, former head coach and sports director at GNK Dinamo Zagreb, was found guilty and sentenced to four years and 11 months in prison.
Croatian Football Federation CEO and former director at GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Damir Vrbanovic, was sentenced to three years in prison and tax official Milan Pernar will be sentenced to four years and two months in prison if the verdict is confirmed by a higher court.
None of the four defendants were present during the reading of the verdict.
Mamic fled the country on Tuesday and settled in Medjugorje in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
“I am not a fugitive. I came here to find peace of mind,” he said at the press conference at his home after seeing the verdict.
According to Croatian law, every jail sentence of five or more years requires mandatory imprisonment.
However, since Mamic has dual Croatian and BiH citizenship, he is protected by BiH law and will not be extradited to Croatia.
GNK Dinamo Zagreb also issued an official statement saying that they are “shocked by an unlawful verdict” and that they hope that “higher courts and judicial instances of the Republic of Croatia and the European Union will recognise in the appeals process that this was not a fair trial and that proper and legitimate material evidence will be honored that shows how our colleagues did not violate the law”.
Zeljko Jovanovic, Social Democratic Party (SDP) representative in the Croatian Parliament and former Minister of Education, Science and Sports, said that this verdict showed how the Mamic brothers used football clubs like “ATM machines” to finance their political allies for their own benefit.
According to law scholars, the final verdict in this case could be stretched out until the end of 2019. If he’ll still be found guilty, Mamic could serve the jail sentence in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of an agreement between two countries.