The founder of the Agrokor food and retail conglomerate, Ivica Todoric, will be extradited to Croatia, British judge Duncan Ouseley ruled on Thursday.
London's High Court held a hearing on Thursday to decide whether Todoric had the right to appeal against the lower-court ruling on his extradition to Croatia, where he is wanted for fraud and embezzlement of money from Agrokor.
Judge Ouseley dismissed the defence motion to allow Todoric to appeal, making the first-instance ruling final and paving the way for his extradition.
“Listen, this was a business move on my part. I decided to come to London, I stayed a year, and completed all the tasks I had envisioned. I will stay here for another 25 days or so,” Todoric told reporters after the court decision was handed down.
“The European arrest warrant is designed to ensure that the British courts respect the decision of the Croatian prosecution authorities and the Croatian courts so the matter returns to Croatia,” said Cherie Blair, one of Todoric’s British attorneys.
Todoric and 14 other former senior managers of the Agrokor conglomerate are under investigation in Croatia over the debt crisis at the company which employs tens of thousands of people across the region, and which has been taken over by state-appointed crisis administration in April 2017.
Todoric had been arrested in November last year in London, on a European arrest warrant issued by Croatia, only to be set free on a £100,000 bail the same day.
Westminster Magistrates Court judge Emma Arbuthnot granted the extradition motion on April 23, dismissing the defence arguments that Todoric was a victim of political persecution in Croatia.
“Of course I’m disappointed, but all in all, I have to keep fighting. This will not stop me, I will go on with even more energy,” he said.
Asked whether he expected to be acquitted in Croatia, Todoric said: “Why? What would I be convicted of?”
The investigation by the Zagreb state attorney was launched in October 2017, with Todoric suspected of unlawfully syphoning 1.14 billion kuna (€154 million) out of the company.
His sons Ante and Ivan, who also held posts in company's management, are also suspects in the investigation, along with 12 other company managers and auditors.