The event was highly unusual, almost surprising. Not so much because of the content, a carefully prepared robbery of gold and cash, but because of the place where it occurred.
The first days of this month, on the night between Monday and the first Tuesday in April, unknown persons broke into the Zagreb police headquarters, as the official sources point out. According to the available reports, in such a large building, in the famous Hainzel Street, they immediately and accurately found the office of the chief of the organized crime department, a safe located in it, opened the safe, picked up gold and money, probably at least took a look at possible interesting stored documents and left. Robberies of this kind are rare, and the European police history has no many similar, and at the same time and above all dangerous cases. So, the result of such a robbery should be big.
Breaking into the headquarters of the police administration and almost casually opening of the police chief’s safe is not quite simple.
When I performed a takeover and took over the management of the Slovenian Ministry of Interior a few years ago, I immediately encountered a complicated problem, on the first day as a minister. In my office, literally behind my writing, that is, office desk, full of various phones and submitted reports, there was a large closet, of that unmistakable and boring office brown wood colour, with relatively large safe in it. One of my predecessors, and this is where the aforementioned problem begins, had forgot, lost or misplaced the opening password combination. At the same time we knew that the safe probably contained, together with interesting documents, a greater amount of gold, found in one of the unusual traffic accidents and kept. Despite calls to owners or their heirs to take over gold, jewellery and the rest of the things, of course, no one responded. And the treasure remained in the safe. Locked and safe.
We searched for a solution with the late Darko Škrlj, who was my secretary of state, as well as the police chief Andrej Podvršič. And we quickly found one. We called the police masters, and I am talking about those old police officers who had learned those skills not only from books and the current everyday work, but also from the practice of the criminals who were detained. With such and different procedures they opened the safe, assorted maintained archive files on my desk, listed on a commission level the valuables that were later handed over to the Bank of Slovenia.
I am describing this event only so that you can get an idea that Zagreb robbery could not be as simple as reported after all. That firstly, on one of the streets of the Croatian capital, the special police units, Cobras, stopped the car of some Antonio, and during an inspection found several hundred of thousands of cash in euros, as well as gold, and then confiscated all together, even though he claimed that it was money left to him by his grandfather and that he simply bought gold in Italy. They later safely stored found gold and cash in their police chief’s safe. And then the unknown perpetrators broke into the same premise of the police administration, opened the safe and stole all together.
With the new government of Tihomir Orešković, the Republic of Croatia has got a new interior minister, Vlaho Orepić, and also a new function of the first deputy prime minister without portfolio, because, supposedly, he will coordinate the work of the police, army, secret services, that is, national security. Tomislav Karmarko, his party won the election, took over this influential position in the government and was immediately confronted with the limits of new position. At first, it was not clear whether the president of the country proposed the dismissal of head of the secret services in agreement with Karamarko as government coordinator for the security system and without an agreement with the prime minister as a co-signatory of such replacement. Everyone expected a quick resolution, however, quite the opposite happened. Orešković, let’s say it in the entrepreneurial jargon, has leaned back in his chair, leaning back comfortably, put his feet on the table and said to the president that he needed time to make such a decision, but above all he wanted to see and hear the reasons for such decision.
This meant two things. That he understands his term as a prime minister literally and that he will make decisions, as well as that all the content of the job of the first president is not so self-understanding as, primarily internal, party public was convinced during the formation of the government.
Nevertheless, it would be too fast to evaluate the situation only based on this case. However, there was another call. The first vice president of the government invited the interior minister Orepić, who politically belongs to a coalition party, to dismiss all senior police officers who were professionally or otherwise loyal to the former minister. Among them was allegedly the head of the Zagreb crime police, Željko Dolački.
The answer was quick and completely surprising. Orepić answered that he was the minister of police, and that he will alone decide on personnel replacements in accordance with his powers. That is, that the first vice president has no real competence or authority in this respect. After such a conversation between two such influential members of the government, only two things could be concluded. First, that it was an agreed performance that should cover other issues of the government with its surprising nature and response.
It was already known then that the Croatian government and the Croatian president, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, have ahead for the country very problematic both domestic and international discussion about redrawing of the history of the Second World War and fascism of the created state of NDH. That is, about everything that was later demonstrated by a dangerous fan chanting and use of banned slogans on the football match between national teams of Croatia and Israel in March of this year or the content of the open letter of the Israeli ambassador Zina Kalay Kleitman, that she would not participate in the memorial commemoration in Jasenovac, because of the inactive policy of the current Croatian government, that leads to relativization and revitalization of the Ustasha movement and crimes committed during the quisling NDH.
I found another possible reasoning about the dispute between Orepić and Karamarko a lot more realistic. That the prime minister will join the conversation, whose contents were not only personnel dismissals in the police, and that he will, through the interpretation of law or regulation on the organization of government and the scope support his first vice president. However, Orešković has again surprised and observed the government’s conflict from a certain distance.
And the solution has arrived by itself. As in the great ancient tragedies, it was made by the invisible hand of fate. With no major political victims or tensions in the government coalition. More specifically, the solution of the coming political and government difficulties was brought by obviously well prepared burglars who unnoticeably passed through the large building of the Zagreb police, found chief’s office and with no trouble opened the safe and picked up the money and gold.
Minister Orepić started with dismissals at the top of the police after the robbery. Almost all mentioned by Karamarko were dismissed.
The target of the Zagreb robbery was well chosen. Of course, not because of the known loot that was simply insufficient compared to the investment in such a campaign. The target was chosen because of the purpose. Even the robbed safe was located in a very particular office of the head of organized crime department, Željko Dolački. He was not only dismissed but also removed from the workplace. And not for the first time. He is kind of disturbing. Primarily because he knows a lot about the course of the transitional Croatian history. This ascetic long-haired detective was replaced for the first time during the government of Dr. Ivica Račan. He performed approximately the same tasks back then and led probably one of the biggest Croatian police operations against organized criminal associations.
The chief state prosecutor, and he was then also replaced almost simultaneously, Radovan Ortinsky, in his last appearance before the Croatian Parliament, in grave silence, and the session was led by the then constitutional judge, former parliamentary vice-president Mato Arlović, claimed to have evidence of transitional wrong ways, but that he was deprived from the right to prove them.
Dolački prepared, during the fight against the organized criminal underground group, the so-called Bagarić’s gang, almost eight thousand pages of police dossiers, which were allegedly proving the connection between crime, justice and key people of political power. The thesis was understandable. Specifically, Zlatko Bagarić was not only head of Zagreb and Croatian underground. In the period before the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, he was hierarchically on a significantly higher place. The leader of the Yugoslav underground, which connected both Serbian and Croatian crime, was Ljuba Zemunac. One of his assistants was Bagarić, and other Željko Ražnatović Arkan. Of course, they all cooperated with various Yugoslav secret services, had necessary various documents, and they had a juridical protection when necessary. When the Yugoslav wars began, Arkan returned to Belgrade, and Bagarić to Zagreb, where they continued with their “work” and, of course, acquired an appropriate level of understanding with the new governments as well.
Whether and in which way they assisted in the financing of the war is the subject of different interpretations, however, the fact is that they were later both killed, when the preparations for the work of the Hague Tribunal for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia already started, quite in accordance with the principle, no man no problem.
Therefore, Dolački was collecting and has collected some interesting evidence of such a mode of cooperation between Bagarić’s gang and the government. This was followed by an anonymous letter and accusing publication in tabloid Imperial, directly co-financed from the account of the Croatian secret service. He and his bosses and colleagues were dismissed, and the subject of investigation withdrawn.
April robbing of the Zagreb police headquarters was the cause for second dismissal of some police chiefs, including Dolački. There is doubt that the stolen valuables from his safe will be in due time found and returned to the said Antonio, being his grandfather’s legacy, and gold bought in Italy seized.