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Cablegate: Scandals Shake the Mfa

VZCZCXRO1395
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #1507 3551418
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211418Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7078
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001507

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE: RBALIAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: SCANDALS SHAKE THE MFA

REF: 2004 Zagreb 1936

Sensitive but unclassified. Please handle accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment. The Ministry of Foreign
Affairs has been rocked recently by a diplomatic scandal
and possible cover-up. The case involves the arrest of the
husband of an officer assigned to the consulate in Los
Angeles for heroin possession in January 2005. The
information allegedly did not reach Minister Kolinda Grabar
Kitarovic until October 2006, which has touched off an
examination of who knew what and when. FM Kitarovic
launched an investigation, completed on 19 December, and
will review the case with PM Sanader and President Mesic.
Already, the Minister announced she will recall the officer
from the U.S. and commence disciplinary procedures for the
officer's supervisors - former L.A. Consul Sanja Bujas-
Juraga, currently MFA's Head of the Department for Arms
Control and Disarmament and former State Secretary Gordan
Bakota, currently Ambassador to Turkey. The affair,
however, has dredged up other scandals in the MFA, another
one also involving Bakota, leaving the public with an ugly
picture of corruption and the impression of a minister not
in control of her ministry. Dominating the press for the
past several weeks, the controversy also leaves the door
wide open for the opposition to attack the Sanader
government in the 2007 parliamentary election run-up. Both
the President and the PM have promised sanctions for those
who participated in the cover-up, and are standing behind
Kitarovic. End Summary and Comment.

L.A. Stories

2. (SBU) Several weeks ago, Croatian diplomat Marko Gaspar
wrote an internal MFA memo about irregularities at the
consulate in L.A., which somehow reached the press. Gaspar
has since been withdrawn. He relayed the January 2005
arrest in Los Angeles of Bernard Barisic for possession of
a small amount of heroin. Barisic is the husband of
Croatian official Bozica Barisic, who is widely seen to be
politically well-connected. After Barisic's arrest,
Department's Office of Foreign Missions informed Consul
General Juraga who then orally informed State Secretary
Bakota about the incident, but not in writing. As a result
of Barisic's connections, it is believed the incident was
swept under the rug. Former FM Miomir Zuzul was in charge
until February 2005. Information about the arrest did not
reach Kitarovic until October 2006. She initiated an
internal investigation. Disciplinary procedures will be
launched against Bakota and Juraga, and the State
Prosecutor is also investigating the entire affair for
criminal conduct.

3. (SBU) The question swirling in the media is how Barisic
continued to work in the consulate for more than a year and
a half after the arrest of her husband without the
Minister's knowledge of the case. Press are speculating
that Kitarovic lacks control over her ministry and that the
ministry is weak and disorganized. Scandals seem to be
further dogging the MFA following the January 2005
resignation of Zuzul under a cloud of suspicion. (Reftel)
On 20 December, Sanader affirmed that Kitarovic's position
is secure. "The Ministry is critical to EU and NATO
accession, and I will not allow its destabilization," he
stated. President Mesic also stood behind Kitarovic,
noting that she had not been informed in order to properly
react. He faulted the lack of an appropriate security pre-
check and also Juraga's failure to create a paper trail of
the incident.

When It Rains It Pours

4. (SBU) The L.A. affair has brought to light another
scandal from 2004, in which former MFA driver Vladimir
Topalovec accused the driver of the consul general in
Munich of using diplomatic vehicles to traffic drugs.
Topalovec had reported an incident to Bakota, but allegedly
Bakota asked him to revoke that statement in writing,
claiming that the person involved was Zuzul's "right hand
man". No sanctions ensued and Topalovec was demoted to a
job of driver-postman. Kitarovic was informed of the
incident and State Prosecutors are still investigating.
Also alleged in the press this week is the smuggling of
large quantities of cocaine via diplomatic vehicles from
the consulate in Bihac.
BRADTKE

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