The Slovenia Times

Fraud Suspected in EU-Funded Renovation of Church Mansion


The Celje police administration reported last week having filed criminal reports in the case of a Velenje-based builder, while the media identified the former Vegrad boss Hilda Tovšak as the suspect, as well as officials responsible for the renovation of Betnava mansion. According to the daily Dnevnik, the latest charges mean that a total of twenty criminal reports have been filed against Vegrad and its executives since the construction company entered receivership in October 2010, most of them against Tovšak.

In one of the latest charges, Tovšak is suspected of abuse of office and rights by granting a short-term loan of EUR 1.6m to Vegrad Naložba, a 57% owner of Vegrad, in late 2007 despite knowing that the company would not be able to repay the loan since it generated no revenue. Before Vegrad asked for a court-mandated debt restructuring in August 2010, the overdue loan was made into a long-term loan.

The police also reported five persons to the prosecution for suspected fraud at the expense of the EU and for falsification of documents in what the commercial broadcaster POP TV said referred to the renovation of Betnava mansion. According to unofficial information cited by POP TV and Dnevnik, the suspects apart Tovšak include the former manager of the company Betnava Dragica Marinič, while the daily Večer also named Mirko Krašovec, the former treasurer of the Maribor Archdiocese.

Marinič is suspected to have been assisted by Vegrad and companies responsible for the oversight of the renovation project in reporting fictitious implementation and payment of EUR 6m worth of construction works in October 2009. Based on such false reporting, Betnava received EUR 1.8m in EU funds. According to Večer, the company Betnava is formally owned by a group of priests and has been managing the namesake mansion since it was returned to the Church in 2000 as part of denationalisation.

Tovšak is in addition suspected of attempted fraud by ordering redemption of a bank guarantee for the benefit of a business partner in September 2010 when she was no longer Vegrad's executive, despite knowing that the conditions for redemption had not been met. In this way she attempted to win the partner EUR 90,000. The former Vegrad boss is also suspected of having misled a subcontractor as to Vegrad's ability to meet its obligations, thus causing the subcontractor a damage of EUR 200,000.


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