Croatia’s central bank chief suspected of conflict of interest

The case involves Zagrebačka Banka, which is owned by UniCredit. Central bank chief Boris Vujčić is reported to have attended a conference organised by the latter. [Tupungato / Shutterstock]

A Croatian government watchdog is to assess if central bank governor Boris Vujčić allowed a conflict of interest by several times attending an economic conference sponsored by the owner of Croatia’s biggest commercial bank.

The annual economic conference in the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbühel is organised and sponsored by Italy’s UniCredit , which owns Croatia’s Zagrebačka Banka.

The State Commission for Conflict of Interest noted that UniCredit “paid expenses to the central bank governor while at the same time the central bank supervises local banks, among which is one owned by that parent bank”.

Last year, Vujčić went to Kitzbühel with the then-prime minister, Tihomir Oresković, to talk to investors about financing conditions and opportunities.

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The commission decided to consider the case after a complaint from a local association of debtors in Swiss francs, “Franak”.

The central bank did not have any immediate comment on the conflict of interest case.

It is unclear what the consequences might be if the commission finds that Vujčić had a conflict of interest; previous such cases have usually resulted in fines.

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Franak has repeatedly accused the central bank of failing to deal properly with a host of loans that sought to take advantage of low Swiss interest rates, but became hard or impossible to pay off when the franc appreciated dramatically.

The central bank has said Vujčić warned publicly a decade ago, as deputy governor, about the risks of taking out such loans.

Croatia forced local banks to convert the loans into euros in 2015 and imposed all the costs on the local banks, whose court challenge is awaiting a ruling

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