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Croatia customs officers arrested over million-euro bribe

08 May 2013, 15:24 CET
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(ZAGREB) - Croatia arrested 17 people, including 10 customs officers, suspected of being part of a bribe scheme worth at least one million euros ($1.3 million), the anti-graft bureau said Wednesday.

They were arrested in the northern port of Rijeka on Tuesday, suspected of "abuse of power, giving and receiving bribes and forging official documents within a criminal enterprise," the USKOK bureau said in a statement.

Those arrested, including a Chinese national, are suspected of illegally reducing customs duties on goods imported from China and Italy and forging documents with false quantities and prices.

Besides customs officials, the arrested included heads of shipping companies and local import firms.

The anti-graft bureau did not elaborate on the imported goods, but Croatian national television HRT reported the goods were items such as clothes, shoes and technical equipment.

The alleged criminal acts were committed between August 2012 and February this year in the capital Zagreb, Rijeka and Skrljevo, just near the Adriatic port.

The fight against corruption was among key criteria Croatia had to meet to join the European Union as its 28th member on July 1.

A corporate fraud survey, conducted in 36 countries worldwide by professional services firm Ernst & Young, put Croatia on the third place, after Slovenia and Kenya regarding a business corruption perception gap.

In Croatia, 90 percent of those questioned said that bribery and corrupt practices happened widely in business in the Balkan country.

The survey, conducted in late 2012 and published Tuesday, questioned more than 3,000 managers and members of their teams.

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