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Croatian Energy Company Caught Up In Massive Gas Fraud

A court in Zagreb on Monday ordered the detention of five people on suspicion of defrauding Croatia’s national oil company INA of more than a billion Croatian kunas (US$133 million) by reselling the company’s gas abroad for 10 times the purchase price and keeping the profits.

The five suspects are accused of selling INA’s gas to a small company owned by one of them which then resold it to foreign customers for 10 times the price and pocketing the difference.

While the Croatian authorities have not divulged the identities of the suspects, Croatian media has reported that the police and the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime (USKOK) have targeted chairman of the Croatian Bar association Josip Surjak and his business partner Goran Husi?; one of INA’s managers, Damir Skugor and his father, a pensioner, Dane, as well as board director of Eastern Slavonia Gas company, Marija Ratkic. 

According to the media, the Skugors took home the lion’s share of the loot, or some half a billion HRK ($66.7 million), Husi? pocketed more than 90 million HRK ($12 million) and Surjak nearly 69 million HRK ($9.2 million).

According to INA, Damir Skugor is a lower level executive, but was still given authority to sign contracts worth up to 20 million euro ($20.03 million), which were then to be co-signed by his deputy. The company has also revealed that  Skugor was the signatory of all the contracts that are the subject of the investigation.

Croatia is seen as a country sitting on a hotbed of energy and has been helping other EU member states to lean off of Russian natural gas and oil. Croatia is endowed with prime opportunities in onshore and offshore oil and gas production as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and its accompanying transportation infrastructure. For instance, the LNG terminal on the island of Krk is operational, and helps link energy interests with neighbors Slovenia and Hungary, which in turn reinforces positive foreign and business relations.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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