Bemused Londoners were treated to an odd sight earlier this week, as one of the Balkans’ richest men ran past them, fleeing the baying press from his native Croatia after his arrest (and release) in the British capital. But just who is sprightly 66-year-old Ivica Todoric?
Until June 2017, Todoric was the owner and chairman of food and retail group Agrokor, the biggest employer in the Balkans with around 60,000 staff. But the firm is in serious trouble after racking up debt of more than €5bn in recent years, including a disputed tally owed to a Russian bank.
Todoric, known for a long time in Croatia as ‘the Boss’, is accused of serious fraud totalling €110m and Croatia issued a European arrest warrant for him earlier this month.
The Croatian tycoon turned himself into London’s Metropolitan Police on Tuesday and after his release on bail he led the paparazzi on a mad foot chase through the streets of the capital.
You’ve got to applaud the pensioner’s fitness and ability to leave the press corps in his dust, but if the accusations levelled against him are true, thousands could lose their jobs in a corner of Europe where the unemployment rate hovers around 20%.
His bail conditions mean he and his wife must surrender their passports and report to the police three times a week. Todoric will also have to wear an electronic tag so that authorities can track his movements. He has confirmed that he will fight Croatia’s extradition request, citing a lack of guarantees for a fair trial back home.
The fallen magnate has repeatedly professed his innocence and insists that corruption within the Croatian government is responsible for Agrokor’s woes.
Indeed, Croatian lawmakers today started debating a no-confidence motion against the government over its handling of the crisis, after the government appointed a caretaker administration in Agrokor this spring.
Although the centre-left opposition does not have enough votes to pass the motion, the fact it is even being debated shows how serious the situation is.
In a region where stability is not exactly easy to come by, the collapse of Agrokor would trigger a real crisis with serious political and financial implications.
But looking on the bright side of things, Croatia could well have stumbled upon a new athletics star. They just need to get Todoric back in the country to fit him for his running shoes.
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