Corruption sting leads to banking sector questions
Police detain Croatian Handball Federation president Sandi Sola and members of his family in the high-profile arrests.
By Kruno Kartus for Southeast European Times in Osijek — 18/04/13
Sandi Sola, majority owner of Karlovacka Bank, is accused of embezzling more than 10 million euros. [Karlovacka Banka]
The recent arrest of South European Handball Association President Sandi Sola, who is accused of embezzling more than 10 million euros, shows the country’s committment to fighting corruption, but shows the country must focus on the banking sector, experts said.
„It is excellent to see the state take action and have a will to solve problems in the banking sector. Now, it is important to see whether the investigation will lead to court decisions, and how it will end,“ Nikola Kristić, president of Transparency International Croatia, told SETimes.
Sola is the majority owner of Karlovacka Bank, which is worth 26.6 million euros. Police arrested him at the border where he was returning from a handball match in Skopje.
His mother, Maria Šola, a representative and advisor of the bank’s management, and his brothers, Peter and Tomislav Šola, were also arrested.
The Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime also arrested Luka Miličić, the former director of Dalekovod construction company, and three others, in the sting. The investigating judge set a one-month detention for all of them.
The office charged the eight with causing 5 million euros in damages to Karlovacka Bank and 7 million euros in Dalekovod between 2007 and 2012, by approving loans to their own private companies.
„The successful work of the police and quality co-operation with state prosecutor deserves every compliment and support of the ministry of interior,“ Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told SETimes.
But not all agree that the case was handled in a timely manner.
„The case and suspicions in the business of Karlovacka Bank lasted for more than a decade … and citizens lost their property,“ Munir Podumljak, president of Partnership for Social Development, an NGO that focuses on corruption, told SETimes.
According to Podumljak, the lack of bank regulation in the country could be problematic in the fight against corruption.
Sola has headed the federation since 2008.
Photo from Croatian media after Sola’s arrest
Apropos my ‘follow the money’ story from yesterday, involving the Duke of Palma de Mallorca, one always feels tempted to remind that ‘everybody is innocent until proven guilty’. But others prefer to rely on the notion that ‘there is no smoke without a fire’ and, as a former IHF colleague has always cynically stated: ‘the difference between being caught and escaping a verdict is simply how clever one is in hiding the evidence’… That latter point has sometimes been made in connection with accusations and rumors involving the IHF in recent years.
Sadly, it now appears that the image of the IHF is again at stake, and that this time there seems to be no lack of evidence. As reported yesterday, both in Croatia and across Europe, the IHF Treasurer (and President of the Croatian Handball Federation) Sandi Sola was early yesterday arrested by Croatian police when he returned to his country from a handball event in Skopje, Macedonia. Apparently, Croatian media are unusually efficient (or well-informed), as they had already predicted this police action the day before it happened. Or perhaps this was simply expected because several other members of Sola’s family had already been apprehended while he was away.
It should be noted that the whole affair has nothing to do with Sola’s functions as an IHF Treasurer. But it tells what appears to be a devastating story about his suitability for that kind of position of trust and influence. The accusations against Sola and his family are related to his position as the Chairman of the Board of a Croatian bank during the years 2007-2012. The charge involves what is described as fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. The amounts involved are stated to be in the order of U.S. $ 15 million. The early indications are that Sola is initially being detained for at least one month.
Presumably, the affair comes as a major surprise to most people in the handball world. Stories about IHF scandals have tended to be personally connected with the IHF President. In a situation where it has seemed impossible to find persons willing to come forward as candidates for the IHF presidency, it has sometimes been speculated that precisely Sola would be the person who could fit the bill as the future successor to the current President. Now instead, regardless of whether the accusations will lead to an indictment or not, it must be assumed that Sola’s continued presence among IHF Executives will be in serious doubt in connection with the upcoming IHF election congress in October.
Whether it will have any impact on the image and the electability of the IHF President himself is a different matter. But there is little doubt that it is one more major blow to the image of the IHF as an institution! What more can we expect and what more should handball lovers have to tolerate!?