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Croatia summons Orco head for talks over hotel probe

Published on 07/01/2011

The Croatian government said Friday it had called the head of Orco Property Group, a Luxembourg-based real estate development and hotel firm, for a meeting next week to discuss a probe into an alleged two million euro fraud.

“Early next week, (Frenchman Jean-Francois) Ott, will be received by Croatia’s deputy prime minister in charge of economy, Petar Cobankovic,” Hina news agency quoted government spokesman Mladen Pavic as saying.

Ott, a former head of a Croat island hotel complex in which Orco holds majority stake and four other French nationals are suspected of “inflicting damages” to the tune of 16 million kunas (2.8 million dollars, two million euros), Croatian TV reported last week.

Croatian authorities suspect the six of suspect the six took out money and “falsely presented their investments” in the complex, it said.

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

Police said on Tuesday they had pressed charges against six Suncani Hvar officials suspected of abuse of power that caused the hotel complex to lose 16 million kunas.

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

On Tuesday, Ott, who arrived in Zagreb to take part in the Suncani Hvar shareholders annual assembly, was questioned by police.

Police said he was questioned as part of probe into so-called economic crimes which can include fraud and embezzlement.

After being released late Tuesday, Ott told national television that he had been questioned as a witness. He has since left Croatia, television reported.

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 extend the five-year contract, accusing the Orco Group of mismanagement that resulted in insolvency.

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

Cobakovic meanwhile said that it would be possible to find a “solution” for the dispute.

“Everyone is welcomed in Croatia, but at the same time, everyone should respect Croatia’s laws,” he said.