Zoran Čegar, head of the Uniformed Police Division of the FBiH Police Administration (FUP) appeared today before the Municipal Court in Dubrovnik on the charges of defrauding Darko Marković, the owner of “Prožura”, a yacht and car rental agency from the island of Mljet, for EUR 20,000.
“I plead not guilty”, Čegar said in court.
According to the indictment of the Dubrovnik Public Attorney, in mid-2017, Čegar asked Marković to sell him an E-class Mercedes and a rubber boat, both property of the company. Čegar told him that he would pay him when he sold the land in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), although he knew that he was not the owner but only the possessor of the land. He promised to reward Marković if his name did not appear in the contract. He wanted to cover up this trade, claiming that he, as a high-ranking police officer, did not want to be associated with this business transaction.
Marković believed him and, along with a power of attorney, he handed over the vessel and the car that Čegar later sold. Instead of paying him 20,000 euros, Čegar asked to buy another vessel for 40,000 euros, offering Marković in return a share of land in BiH, but Marković refused and asked for the money for the boat and car that he handed over earlier.
Under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia, a fraud that incurred material damage such as the one for which Čegar is charged is punishable by a prison sentence of one to eight years.
Čegar’s defense attorney, Gordana Grubeša, referred to Marković as “allegedly injured”, claiming that she would prove that he had been paid. She later told the CIN journalists that the amount involved was several times higher than what he was claiming. In addition to certain material evidence, Selma Filipović, a professor from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Sarajevo, who was, according to the defense attorney, present when Čegar and Marković made the deal, will be summoned as a witness.
In the opening address, judge Domagoj Raguž of the Dubrovnik Municipal Court indicated that Čegar owns a house in Sarajevo, an apartment in Krvavice near Makarska, and a Toyota car. When asked by the judge whether he owns other assets that the Court does not know about, Čegar shrugged his shoulders and added that he has an E-class Mercedes E from 2011 and a salary of BAM 3,200.
Early this week, the Center for Investigative Reporting published its investigative story about Čegar unlawfully acquiring part of the property in BiH. Journalists discovered that in the last 20 years, he traded many real estates – houses, apartments, and land holdings in BiH and Croatia, and held in his possession many cars, boats, motorcycles, and snowmobiles. He often traded without money, bartering his property for other people’s real estate and vehicles. His partners colloquially call it “trange-frange” affairs, the logrolling.
Today, Čegar owns a luxury villa and multi-story house in Sarajevo, apartments in Bjelašnica and Neum, and huge land holdings with several buildings on the Nišići plateau. Some of his properties are not registered because they were built without building permits. He acquired the property in Barice and Nišići near Sarajevo using fictitious contract(s) and falsified documents.
CIN journalists also discovered that the head of the FBiH Uniformed Police Division was accused of fraud in Croatia, which is why he sits trial in Dubrovnik. His bosses didn’t know of this. However, after the story was published, the Minister of the FBiH Ministry of Internal Affairs (FMUP) Aljoša Čampara announced an investigation to determine Čegar’s liability.
“If this is all true, then I think it is really an absurd situation where the man is charged with fraud, and he decides on the rights and duties of other police officers,” said Čampara.
At her client’s suggestion, the lawyer Grubeša filed a motion for a closed trial, saying that media coverage may harm the case, since it is about a high-ranking police officer, and he could answer media questions outside the court. The court did not decide on the motion yet.
CIN journalists asked Čegar for a comment in front of the Court building. He reacted violently, attacking the journalist: “Don’t make me rip your throat out!”
This is not the first time officer Čegar threatened CIN journalists. During the investigation, in a short telephone conversation, he refused to speak, using threats and curses. Alluding to his position, he said that “various people kept him informed” about journalists’ whereabouts and work.” “I know everything, I’m not running a tobacco shop!”
The next hearing is scheduled for December 8 this year.