A British judge has ordered the extradition of Ivica Todoric, the founder of Croatian food group Agrokor. Todoric faces charges of fraud related to the near-bankruptcy of what was once Croatia's biggest private company.
The 66-year-old business tycoon, who last year was described as one of Europe's "most wanted fugitives," is sought by Croatian authorities on fraud and corruption offences relating to around €110 million ($122 million).
After fleeing to Britain in November 2017, Ivica Todoric handed himself in to officers from the Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit, and has since been fighting an extradition request from Zagreb.
On Monday, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot turned down Todoric's request to stay in the UK, saying there was "strong evidence" that Todoric had committed the alleged offences.
However, the judge also said that Todoric can appeal the ruling within the next seven days.
Todoric and 14 other people are being investigated in Croatia over the crisis at food company Agrokor, the country's biggest private firm with 60,000 staff across the Balkans.
It is alleged that Todoric and other individuals "misrepresented the business and financial reports of Agrokor" between 2006 and April 2017 by "concealing expenses, debts and financial claims."
The Croatian authorities also allege that he "abused his authority" as president of the management board to make a gain of €8,603,599.
He is also accused of violating the requirement to protect other people's property interests and income operations — entering false information in business documents — making a gain of more than €101 million.
Agrokor was put into state-run administration in April 2017 after an overly-ambitious expansion drive left it weighed down by debt.
Last November, Todoric said he would fight his extradition from Britain, claiming the accusations against him and his associates were unfounded and part of a "political process."
Until his trial on Monday, he was free on a £100,000 (€114,000, $139,000) bail but had been ordered to wear an electronic tag, sign in at Kensington police station three times a week and surrender his travel documents.
In her judgement, Arbuthnot rejected the argument that there had been an abuse of process and political interference in Croatia, dismissing it as a "conspiracy theory."
The judge said the Croatian prosecutor had sent detailed information about the investigation into Agrokor and the evidence gathered so far, including testimonies of 53 witnesses.
According to Croatian prosecutors, there was evidence the company had not been profitable since 2006, yet it had been picking up bills for Todoric's big game hunting in Africa as well as the cost of stuffing the animals he killed.
uhe/aos (Reuters, AFP)