Croat police question Orco Property Group CEO

4th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Croatian police are questioning the chief executive of the Luxembourg-based real estate development and hotel firm, Orco Property Group, an interior ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Jean-Francois Ott has not been detained, but has agreed to be questioned by police within the investigation being conducted in cooperation with local prosecution authorities, spokeswoman Aleksandra Ljuba told AFP, without giving further details.

National television had reported earlier Tuesday that Ott was brought in by Zagreb police for questioning a day after a failed agreement between the Orco Group and Croatia's privatisation fund, over restructuring an island hotel complex which accumulated losses.

Orco Group holds a 55-percent stake in the Suncani Hvar complex on the southern island of Hvar, while the privatisation fund (HFP) holds 31 percent.

Local media reported that Ott was to be questioned about the Suncani Hvar privatisation in 2005.

Meanwhile, police said they had pressed charges against six Suncani Hvar officials suspected of abuse of power that caused the hotel complex to lose 16 million kunas (two million euros, 2.8 million dollars).

The alleged criminal acts were committed between 2005 and 2008 after the Orco Group became a Suncani Hvar owner, a statement said.

The charges were pressed with prosecutors in the coastal town of Split, police said without naming the suspects.

The Orco Group expressed "concern" over police questionning of its CEO, calling it an "obvious tactic of pressure by the Croatian government directed against both Ott and Orco," said a company statement quoted by the HINA news agency.

Neither Ott, a French national, nor the Orco Group, will allow themselves "to be forced to give up their legitimate business interests in Croatia," the state-run news agency quoted the statement as saying.

Ott arrived in Zagreb to participate in the Suncani Hvar shareholders annual assembly on Monday during which "nothing was solved," the statement added.

The Orco Group and the HFP privatisation fund in 2005 concluded a deal on a public-private partnership in the Suncani Hvar complex.

But last July the HFP decided not to prolong the five-year contract, accusing the Orco Group of mismanagement that resulted in a dramatic increase of the Suncani Hvar indebtness and its insolvency.

The Luxembourg-based group rejected the move and threatened to file a lawsuit against the HFP.

© 2011 AFP

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