Croatian police swoop on FA chief and Dinamo Zagreb bosses in corruption probe

By Andrew Warshaw and Mark Baber

April 27 – Croatia’s anti-corruption authorities say they have charged three current and former officials from 17-time champions Dinamo Zagreb with tax evasion and siphoning off profits from player transfers – including a senior Croatian FA official who Insideworldfootball has discovered is a member of a leading FIFA trouble-shooting body.

The three – as well as a tax official charged with helping – were identified only by their initials in an online statement, in line with usual Croatian police practice, but have been charged with embezzling the equivalent of €15 million of the club’s money since 2008 and not paying €1.6m in state taxes.

State television named them as former Dinamo chief executive Zdravko Mamic; his brother Zoran Mamic who is the current Dinamo coach; and, more alarmingly perhaps, Damir Vrbanovic, executive director at the Croatian FA and former Dinamo executive who is also listed on Fifa’s website as a member of its Dispute Resolution Chamber.

Zdravko Mamic resigned his position in Dinamo in February saying he wanted to secure a stable future for the club. He denies any wrongdoing.

Croatian media claim the brothers are also suspected of siphoning off,  through companies registered abroad, undeclared commission fees from the sale of several Dinamo players to foreign clubs, including former Bayern Munich forward Mario Mandzukic, who now plays for Juventus.

The arrests came as Dinamo Zagreb celebrated its ‘105th birthday’ (or to be more precise the anniversary of the formation of HSK Gradanski which was dissolved as an entity in 1945 because of its collaboration with the wartime fascist authorities) – a celebration which is itself part of a widespread movement to rewrite history, destroy Croatia’s anti-fascist identity and rehabilitate the German-allied fascist Ustase.

Whilst the defendants deny any of the charges laid against them, Dinamo Zagreb itself is aiming to win its 11th consecutive Croatian league title – currently four points clear at the tip of the table with three games to play.

Croatian football is in rather less healthy state than its top club – with widespread controversy over anti-semitic and ultra-nationalist chanting at games which led the Simon Wiesenthal director for Eastern European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff to comment after the recent game against Israel that, “Chants of Za dom spremni (Ready for the homeland) and Mi Hrvati! Ustasha, Ustasha! (We Croatians! Ustasha, Ustasha!) clearly express support for a country whose government organized the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of its minorities and political opponents.

“The fact that no one sought to stop these chants or take any measures against those shouting them, including Prime Minister [Tihomir] Oreškovic, or any of the Croatian ministers or officials of the Croatian Football Association, constitutes a badge of shame for Croatia.”

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