Prosecutors have filed perjury charges against Croatia captain Luka Modric. The Real Madrid midfielder testified last year in a trial involving Zdravko Mamic, the former boss of Modric's old club Dinamo Zagreb.
Croatia's state attorney filed the charges against Modric on Friday, although a court must approve the indictment before the Real Madrid star could face trial.
In keeping with Croatian law, Modric was not named in the indictment, but the document identified the accused as a 32-year-old Croatian national, and referred to his testimony last year in a corruption trial against Zdravko Mamic, once the Dinamo Zagreb boss. Local media identified Modric as the man under investigation.
Mamic, his brother Zoran and two others are accused of abuse of power and graft that cost the Dinamo Zagreb football club more than €15 million ($18.4 million) and cost the Croatian state more than a million euros.
Modric left Dinamo Zagreb, owned by Mamic, for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2008.
Why might Modric face a court case?
Even Mamic's defense team does not dispute that the mogul received a hefty chunk of the fees via Modric. What's under debate is when and how this deal was agreed. Prosecutors were surprised last year when Modric testified that he had signed an annex in his Dinamo Zagreb contract guaranteeing this while he was still playing in Croatia. They claim that, when initially questioned in 2015, Modric had told them that the agreement was in fact backdated and agreed after the midfielder had moved to London.
Modric's testimony last year in Croatia prompted an immediate public backlash, in a country where the Mamic family are increasingly unpopular among football fans. He told the court in 2017 that his initial testimony might not have been accurate, saying that he had told investigators at the time that he could not remember the exact details of the deal.
The public perception among some is that the midfielder is trying to shield Mamic, broadly seen as having personally profited from his key role in Croatian football. Though Davor Suker now heads Croatia's FA, many in the country believe Mamic continues to pull the strings.
Modric currently plays for Real Madrid; he moved there from Spurs in 2012. He is currently set to captain Croatia at the World Cup this summer, with Croatia sharing a group with Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland.
Perjury can carry a jail sentence of between six months and five years in Croatia.
Modric has also paid a settlement in Spain to settle a tax evasion case pertaining to his image rights earnings in 2013 and 2014, and is also under investigation for his financial holdings in the Isle of Man — a popular tax haven for UK residents just off the coast of England.
msh/jh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)