ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — British authorities on Wednesday extradited Ivica Todoric, the founder of a deeply indebted food and retail company, to Croatia in a case that has shaken the Balkans.
A year after Todoric was detained in London on embezzlement charges, the 67-year-old landed in Zagreb on a commercial flight from London and was escorted by police to a prison in the Croatian capital.
Todoric is accused in Croatia of mismanaging the Agrokor company and embezzling millions. He was arrested in the British capital a year ago under a European arrest warrant, but was set free on a 100,000-pound bail the same day he was arrested.
He has maintained his innocence, claiming that he was the victim of rampant corruption at the heart of power in his country. A London court rejected his appeal last month and agreed to send him to Croatia.
Agrokor is a massive concern whose tentacles stretch throughout the Balkans. It employs 60,000 people and accounts for 15 percent of Croatia's GDP. It has 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.
Agrokor creditors this year approved a settlement deal that includes giving the two banks a stake of over 46 percent to avoid bankruptcy. It has prompted fears in Croatia that the Kremlin has been strategically trying to increase its political influence in the European Union's newest member through Agrokor's troubles.