ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatian police on Monday raided the homes of the founder of the country's biggest private company and his former aides amid an ongoing investigation over the retail giant's financial collapse.
The state prosecutor's office said the raids were part of the probe against 15 people suspected of "criminal acts against the economy and fraud." The statement said the raids followed a months-long probe.
Croatian media said that several people were detained in the raids. They say that the Agrokor founder, Ivica Todoric, was not in his Zagreb home, but is reportedly in London.
Todoric said in a statement published on his website on Monday that the accusations against him and his associates were unfounded and part of a "political process."
He added that he is preparing his defense, which "will shed light and bring to justice all those who have used criminal activities and unconstitutional laws to hide the biggest robbery of private property in modern Europe."
"Had they found a single euro of misappropriated and embezzled money, I would already be in jail. But this simply isn't true," Todoric said.
He accused Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his ministers of being behind the alleged plot.
The state-run HINA news agency says some 300 police officers took part in the early morning raids on several locations. The suspects reportedly face accusations of falsely presenting the company's finances for achieving personal gains.
Agrokor, the biggest retailer in the Balkans that accounts for 15 percent of Croatia's gross domestic product, has accumulated an estimated $6.5 billion (5.8 billion euros) in debt, or six times its equity, while rapidly expanding operations in the region. Its biggest creditor was Russia's Sberbank which seeks 1.1 billion euros of the debt from the company or the state.
Croatia's authorities have tried to bail out Agrokor to avert a ripple effect on the economy and save tens of thousands of jobs. Parliament has passed an emergency law to protect the state from big company failures.
Todoric was stripped of his managerial rights under the law, but formally remains Agrokor's owner.