Croatian Promoter Accused Of Corruption

The company responsible for overseeing the smooth running of the Rolling Stones‘ July 5 show in Zagreb, Croatia, has been accused of corruption by the country’s biggest-selling newspaper.

Two mid-May reports in the daily Vecernji List say Koncertna Direkcija Zagreb (KDZ) got public money to pay wages for non-existent employees, showed cash payments to artists that never performed, and put in bogus claims for traveling expenses. KDZ runs mainly classical events in the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

KDZ is funded by city of Zagreb authorities and the Ministry of Culture. It has guaranteed a reported $2 million to underwrite the costs of the Stones show. Any losses would have to be covered by the public purse.

Last week, it faced public embarrassment when Stones European tour producer John Giddings – from London’s Solo Agency – dropped local promoter Marijan Crnaric following the adverse publicity that had resulted from his involvement.

According to KDZ chief Saša Britvic, Crnaric, who is accused of keeping fans’ ticket money when shows are canceled – was only on board because the band’s management requested it. Giddings denied that claim, and said he told Wolfgang Klinger to get rid of him.

Klinger is head of the Vienna-based Rock & More and is the show’s main promoter. He would have been responsible for bringing in Crnaric.

Sandra Veljkovic, the Vecernji List journalist who broke the most recent stories, told Pollstar she discovered the alleged frauds after getting sight of the state audit report on KDZ for 2004.

“For eight months, [KDZ] received money for two employees more than they had. They even claimed money for an employee who had left the company in 2003,” she explained.

“They paid artists fees in cash – which is pure and simple money laundering – that amount to more than 2 million kunas (about US$352,750).

“There are a number of payments for which there are no explanations. For example, it’s not known what one item for 150,000 kunas (US$26,500) for the organization of Zagreb Baroque Festival was actually spent on.

“There are also a number of unspecified artist fees, including a deal with one unnamed artist for 40,000 kunas (US$7,000), without any mention of what that unnamed artist was paid for.”

It seems some of the acts mentioned in the report didn’t even appear in Croatia.

The 2004 state audit for KDZ was carried out between December 5, 2005, and March 14.

The company would have claimed the money in question from the city of Zagreb’s cultural department.

Veljkovic said she believes a copy of the audit would have landed on Britvic’s desk within the last two or three weeks.

“Maybe the amounts are not spectacular by Western European standards but it is bigger money in Croatia. It’s also public money and taxpayers are outraged,” she said.

She said she hasn’t been able to get any explanation for the apparent discrepancies from Britvic, Zagreb cultural chief Duško Ljuština or city mayor Milan Bandic.

“I did get through to them but they’re not prepared to make any comment at the moment,” she explained.

– John Gammon