Political Meetings Captured in Information Collected by Wiretapping

Most of the information collected by wiretapping was disclosed inadvertently. Not only its publication, but also the wiretapping itself had a political goal. For example, the last confirmation of the surveillance of the arbitral tribunal judge and a high official of the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the neighbouring state of Croatia, at least in the last twenty plus years, the information collected by wiretapping and secret recording has been a part of the political history that tends, in the tradition of ancient dramaturgy, to change, convert or make events different. So let’s look at a few examples.

During the peace and serenity of the Christmas and New Year’s period, on January 8, 1999, the president of the Croatian parliament, academician Vlatko Pavletić, wrote a letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs, one of my Croatian colleagues, Ivan Penić. However, this was not a belated greeting card usually sent during this period, not even one of the messages sent by the heads of parliament to ministers on important event or meeting at which the presence of a very special member of the government is necessary. Pavletić’s letter begins quite differently. He notifies the minister of internal affairs on fact that appears that Pavletić, this is what he wrote, was under constant electronic surveillance, as he was probably already aware. Therefore, he requested to be confirmed with honour that he never issued a warrant for his secret monitoring and surveillance, not only during that period, but never during the mandate. He also warned the minister in advance that he would form an independent commission to inspect all doubts. Allegations and suspicions of the president of the parliament never received an answer, of course, because it was a state mode of communication with political permission. Therefore, almost two years later, Pavletić wrote a new letter. This time to the Minister Šime Lučin, eloquent Dalmatian from Zadar, who took over the ministry of internal affairs. He asked him as well to respond who and how had tapped him not only during the parliament period, but also during the period when he was acting state president, after the death of Franjo Tuđman. He did not get the answer he had expected this time either.

It was obviously enough when they told him that maybe he was suspect and that the fact that he was on the highest state positions could not protect him.

Only several years prior to that, the then editor of Večernji list, Branko Tuđen, spoke with former Prime Minister, Franjo Gregurić. His statement was similar. He suspected that he was systematically tapped. Of course, the refined Gregurić was able to understand that a campaign was launched against him precisely then, in dedicated printed material. The charges were not innocent. And he acted alone in them. The second was Hrvoje Šarinić, short-term prime minister and long-time head of Tuđman’s president’s office. If you wanted to see the president, you had to pass through the president’s office. The content of the charges was corruption in dealings with oil for state-owned company “INA”.

If just a message was enough for academician Pavletić, this time it was different. Šarinić decided that he would answer. The price he paid was terrible. After Šarinić’s statement and convening of press conference at which he intended to expose the ways of political tapping and the key actors of these operations from the top administration of the then ruling party, it happened. Just hours before the conference, his oldest son fell from the motorbike in the middle of Zagreb, in Klaić street.
He was dead on the spot. At the funeral, President Tuđman urged that the times when the Croat struck the Croat should not repeat. He offered to Šarinić, as they were closest associates, a complete protection. Only associates, complete protection. Only 14 days later, a large truck completely smashed a small car Peugeot parked by Šarinić’s second son, in order to pick his son from the kindergarten. He was wounded very badly.
There is no evidence about the connection between these human tragedies with statements on what was heard in wiretapping. There is only unusual time connection. And immediately afterwards, first the resignation of Gregurić and then Šarinić. A conflict between two major political groups within the ruling party ended in defeat, the defeat of the party usually marked as pro-European and managerial.

The dispute had begun much earlier, in the fall of 1990. The then personal adviser to Croatian President, American professor Norman A. Bailey, wrote a document with a simple title, “A Comprehensive Economic Program of the Croatian Republic”. The key proposal of the text was to privatize state-owned enterprises by issuing a number of shares that would be deposited in a special fund of the National Bank. Part of them would be reserved for the former owners and their heirs and successors, part for the employees, and part for foreign investors who would bring either a new technology, new development or new markets. Remaining shares would be distributed to all citizens. The proposal had the support of the then minister of economy, but still it was not adopted. The ruling party decided on a privatization model through direct sales of companies in the tenders.

There were two problems. First, that a serious purchase advantage was given to those who were close to the authorities. Second, that they did not have the capital or even management knowledge. A special system of loans, financial engineering, concessions and political perfection was developed then, during the war. This is the exact point where the dispute between the two factions in the large ruling party began. Information obtained during tapping become part of a political instrument. And confrontation.

Maybe that was the reason for carefully prepared decision of the President Stipe Mesić, who wanted to obtain documents on individual privatization methods, secret accounts and high commissions. After two preparatory meetings, both taking place in the inn “Britanac”, on the square in Zagreb with the same name, at the end of May 2007, Mesić’s national security adviser met with General Vladimir Zagorec, who was responsible for procurement of weapons and associated transactions during and after the war. That year, an arrest warrant was issued for him, for some resale of diamonds. He went to Vienna. The meeting with the President’s advisor took place at the hotel “Sas Radisson”. Of course, it was recorded secretly. Audio and video. The question was only who and how many various services were recording it. The content of the conversation was to be the president’s offer of the withdrawal of international arrest warrant for the general, if he handed over documentation on types of deals associated particularly with the privatization during the Valentić’s government and the government of Zlatko Mateša. Zagorac handed over his recording of the conversation to the Austrian prosecution office.
Security and judicial organs of other neighbouring country, Hungary, studied similar secret audio and video recordings two years later. In the fall of 2009, Dr. Ivo Sanader and the chairman of the board of the Hungarian oil company “MOL” Zsolt Hernádi met for the lunch in Zagreb, in then very good restaurant “Marcellino”. They were also tapped, from arrival to departure. Most of it was later deleted so that only a few-minutes snapshot left, used by the prosecution in a lawsuit against the former prime minister. It shows, first, Sanader removing the battery from the cell phone and then writing something on a piece of paper, handing it to Hernádi, who also writes something. It was suspected that they agreed on, let’s call it a treat, on selling the Croatian “Ina” to the Hungarian oil trader.

Information acquired by a completely unique way of wiretapping forms part of the political history of the neighbouring country, as well as its intentional disclosure. The last one, on the arbitration judge and high Slovenian official, is only a part of it as well.