Croatia's Deputy PM Dalic resigns over Agrokor role

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s deputy prime minister Martina Dalic resigned on Monday under pressure from opposition groups who accused her of failing to prevent conflicts of interest during the restructuring of food giant Agrokor. [AGROK.UL]

FILE PHOTO: Martina Dalic, Minister of Economy, attends a news conference in a government building in Zagreb, Croatia, April 10, 2018. Picture taken April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic/File Photo

Dalic, who also quit her job as economy minister, denied any wrongdoing but said she did not want to be a burden on the government.

There was no immediate comment from Agrokor or its creditors and it was not immediately clear if Dalic’s departure would hold up the efforts to save Croatia’s largest private company from bankruptcy.

Dalic led efforts to save the food producer and retailer after it was put under state-run administration in April 2017, weighed down by debt accrued during an ambitious expansion drive.

Last week, local news portal published what it said was one-year-old email correspondence between Dalic and financial and legal experts she consulted while preparing an emergency law to save the firm which is the Balkans’ biggest employer.

Some of the experts named in that correspondence were later engaged as consultants by a firm advising the government during the restructuring process.

The opposition, led by the Social Democrats and centre-right Most (“Bridge”) party, said it was unacceptable that Dalic had allowed the same consultants who drew up the rescue plan to be paid to roll it out, calling it a conflict of interest.

“I have done nothing wrong nor illegal but the perception, which in the politics matters, is as it is,” Dalic told reporters.

“I don’t want to a burden to the government. I expect the relevant bodies to investigate who revealed the fragments of the email correspondence which is against the law,” she said.

Agrokor creditors, which include foreign and local banks, bondholders and suppliers, must vote on a settlement outlined in the emergency law by July 10.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic accepted Dalic’s resignation and said the government would press on with the process.

“The basic goal of our efforts over Agrokor, in which Dalic had a leading role, has been achieved,” he said.

“I’m satisfied with that. I just regret that the process was not a bit more transparent. I’m sorry about Dalic leaving the government. It is our task now to reach the settlement within the legal deadline,” he added.

He did not name her replacement.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Andrew Heavens