New Fiasco for Justice System


The Maribor court released the former boss of bankrupt builder Vegrad from custody last Friday, but issued a day later a fresh detention order against her and one of the co-suspects in a worker exploitation case, Aleš Pangerc.

It explained that it had to release the two on Friday on procedural grounds, because the charges against them had been reclassified to an offence that carries a sentence of only up to three years in prison, meaning they could not be detained for more than 15 days.

Tovšak, who was detained on 28 February and was originally to remain in custody until 28 May, is suspected of organising cheap migrant labour at the end of last year and the start of this year, unofficially welders to work for French company Alstom on the TEŠ6 project at the Šoštanj coal-fired power plant.

Her lawyer Boris Kanduti has explained that Tovšak was charged only with offering bribes, while it was yet to be determined whether there were any irregularities in distribution of profit.

While Pangerc, of the Slovenian company Go Extra, was back in detention on Saturday, the whereabouts of Tovšak remains unknown, even to her lawyer, which is why an international arrest warrant has been issued for her.

Tovšak has been involved in several court proceedings. An unrelated trial against her over embezzlement of EUR 3.5m in EU funds for the renovation of the Rimske terme spa was to start at the Celje District Court last week, but was postponed as Tovšak does not yet have a legal representative in the case.

She already received a 14-month prison sentence in last year's Clean Shovel corruption trial, in which all seven persons convicted have asked the court to serve their sentences with community work.

The 62-year-old Tovšak was also sentenced to two years in prison in April over fraud and misappropriation of funds after she pleaded guilty of taking EUR 220,000 from a Vegrad workers' solidarity fund.

Justice Minister Senko Pličanič responded to the news of Tovšak's release and subsequent disappearance by saying that "something obviously went wrong" in Tovšak's case and that he will demand a report from State Prosecutor General Zvonko Fišer.

"In a modern justice system…such a mistake could not and should not have happened," he said, adding that if a mistake is indeed confirmed, those responsible should be held accountable.

He feels that Tovšak should have already been sent to prison or her request for serving with community work processed. "This has been taking too long," the minister commented on the enforcement of Tovšak's previous sentences.

Pličanič moreover said that the Justice Ministry and the government had very limited powers in dealing with such situations, arguing that not the legislation but an ineffective judiciary was to blame.