Tudjman looted billions from Croatia

LONDON, Jun 19, 2000 -- (AFP) Former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman looted billions of pounds (dollars) from state funds during his eight-year tenure, the Sunday Times reported, citing transcripts of his conversations.

Tudjman used a smokescreen of companies to siphon funds through banks in London, the Channel Islands and the Caribbean, according to the transcripts of conversations he had with a presidential aide, the Times said.

The financial maneuvers primarily involved privatization, the proceeds of which were channelled to the secret offshore havens, according to the transcripts, which were discovered by the man who replaced Tudjman as president after his death in December, Stipe Mesic.

"Quite frankly, what we have seen so far is amazing," the newspaper quoted one diplomat as saying.

In one conversation, Tudjman is heard discussing with the aide, Ivic Pasalic, how an investment fund registered in England would take control of newspaper Vecernji List during its privatization in 1997.

In another they discuss the sale of part of a national mobile telephone concession to Deutsche Telekom for 60 million pounds (91 billion dollars), which were deposited in an Irish bank account.

The Times said the embezzlement had been a key factor in Croatia's economic difficulties, which have seen the republic weighed down with debt and an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.

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