LONDON (AP) — A London court agreed Monday to extradite the founder of indebted Croatia-based food and retail company Agrokor, the country’s most-wanted fugitive.
Ivica Todoric was arrested in London in November under a European arrest warrant posted by Croatia, which accuses him of mismanaging Agrokor and embezzling millions in the process.
The company, which employs 60,000 people throughout the Balkans and accounts for 15 percent of Croatia’s GDP, collapsed under the weight of 6 billion euros in debt ($7 billion), including a disputed sum owed to two Russian state-run banks, Sberbank and VTB. It was put into state administration a year ago.
Todoric claimed he is innocent and said the Croatian charges were politically motivated. His lawyers have announced an appeal.
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Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot told the Westminster Magistrates Court that she sees no political motivation in Croatia’s extradition request.
“I order the extradition of Mr. Ivica Todoric to Croatia,” she said.
Until the Court approved his extradition, Todoric had been free on bail in the U.K. after surrendering his passport and agreeing to wear an electronic tag. The court later Monday ruled that Todoric will remain free during the appeals process.
Earlier, defense lawyer Jadranka Slokovic told N1 TV she was not surprised by the ruling and expressed hope Todoric would not be detained until the final decision.
“Todoric has fully respected the restrictions (imposed by the court) and I hope the existing measures, which he has honored, will be extended,” Slokovic said.
Agrokor’s creditors last month agreed on draft debt-settlement terms, which provide a framework to avoid bankruptcy.
The plan includes a proposed corporate restructuring that would in effect put the two Russian banks in control of the company — prompting fears in Croatia that the Kremlin has been strategically trying to increase its political influence in the European Union’s newest member.