Fraud: State-owned company paid for Danilo Türk’s campaign

Foto: epa

This is an insignificant offence, and so there will be no proceedings, the court decided with regards to the €1,500 that had been donated to the campaign of former president of Slovenia Danilo Türk. The donation had been made by the Eko-park company from Lendava.

Eko-park is owned by the municipality of Lendava. Such companies are prohibited from funding campaigns by law. If state-owned companies are paying for the campaigns of those who govern the country, we are a model of a very corrupt country. Moreover, Eko-park receives more than half of its revenue from the state. The total revenue and the share of state remittances according to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) is shown in the following graphic:

However, after an appeal by the Court of Audit of Slovenia, the court changed its mind and took action. For the illegal contribution, Roman Ferenčak, the organiser of the election campaign of former president of Slovenia Türk, was issued: an admonition. An admonition was also sent to the municipal company from Lendava, which had paid what it should not have. It has been managed by Jožef Gerenčer since 2008. Gerenčer is not just the director of this public utility company. He is also an elected municipal councillor. In other words, a politician. His affiliation is demonstrated by this official document from the last local elections:

Case-law: From an admonition to a fine of €5,000
Gerenčer is also the president of the local committee of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) in Lendava. The Court of Audit has again appealed that an admonition is too lenient a sentence for the illegal funding of an important politician’s campaign with the money of a municipal company. Unofficially, it is believed that in the end the case will expire due to legal complications. More than four years have passed since the money was donated. That is also the length of the limitation period.

The lenient reaction of the court in a case involving important politicians is odd. While these proceedings were taking place, the parliament, in order to prevent corruption, also included any private companies and legal persons, for example associations, in the prohibition against donating money to politicians. A prohibition against private companies funding campaigns is not at all common in the European Union. Slovenia prosecutes what is legal elsewhere, but fails to prosecute what it should. The lenient sentence for Ferenčak and Gerenčer differs dramatically from the sentence that the court imposed on the association managed by Rosvita Šeruga for a favour of €100 to the campaign of the mayor of Maribor Andrej Fištravec: a fine of €5,000. More information is available at<https://spletnicasopis.eu/2017/03/29/stranpoti-kampanj-ni-kazni-za-fistravceve-neplacane-racune/>.

Because Šeruga appealed, the litigation concerning this fine is still pending. A similar litigation for a smaller fine of €600, which the court imposed for the same offence on Darko Berlič, the organiser of Fištravec’s campaign, has not been concluded either.

The hidden loan from the Factor bank
An interesting incident in Türk’s campaign from almost five years ago that was noticed by the auditors of the Court of Audit, besides the donation from Eko-park, was that Ferenčak had opened an account for the campaign at the Factor bank, which was later closed down during a large state recapitalisation. However, it was actually absorbed by the Slovenian bad bank. This bank loaned €27,406 to Türk’s campaign, which was misrepresented by Ferenčak as his own loan even though the money was transferred directly from the bank to the account of Türk’s campaign. In the elections following the campaign, the former president was surprisingly defeated by current president Borut Pahor. In his report, Ferenčak also did not mention that he had failed to pay an invoice for €50,000 from the state-owned Post of Slovenia in time. He failed to pay this invoice even 90 days after the service had been rendered.

Regarding the pending proceedings which have been initiated against different organisers of election campaigns for their offences, the Court of Audit issued the following statement: “The judgements have differed significantly up to now. From a court stopping the proceedings because it deemed the offence insignificant to admonitions and even fines (e.g. €4,500). In cases where the court had decided that the offence was insignificant, it was generally we who appealed, while the parties appealed in cases where a fine had been levied. However, none of the cases have been verified before the Supreme Court of Slovenia, so we only have judgements of the first instance. Only after an evaluation by the Supreme Court could we know what “value” observing these rules has.”

The costs of official presidential campaigns from five years ago are indicated by the table. It indicates the number of voters in the first round for Milan Zver, and the number of voters in the second round for Danilo Türk and Borut Pahor:

Peter Jančič, Spletni časopis.eu