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ZAGREB (Croatia), October 6 (SeeNews) - Croatia's former parliament speaker and leader of centre-right MOST party, Bozo Petrov, said on Friday that the oustanding debt of the ailing privately-held concern Agrokor should not be allowed to become state debt.
"Croatia has not nationalised Agrokor", Petrov told public broadcaster HRT. "This is not the citizens' debt, and it must not become their debt."
Petrov spoke after Croatian media reported that Maxim Poletaev, deputy chairman of the management board of Russia's Sberbank - a major creditor of Agrokor, has suggested that Croatia should service the debt of the food-to-retail concern.
Croatian news agency HINA reported on Friday that Poletaev has told Russian news agency Interfax that the debt of Agrokor to the Russian bank is now debt of the Croatian government, which it should pay. Poletaev also said that Croatia should use government bonds to pay back Sberbank, according to HINA.
Agrokor owes Sberbank some 1.1 billion euro ($1.3 billion).
In August, the bank filed a complaint against Agrokor owner, Ivica Todoric, and, according to media reports, it now plans to sue the auditor which had previously verified Agrokor's financial statements.
On Thursday, a new audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) revealed that huge discrepancies exist between the 2015 financial results of nine key companies within Agorkor reported earlier and the audited figures. Inflated value of assets, understated claims towards group members, over-estimated inventory and undocumented costs were some of the reasons for the discrepancies.
The auditor of Agrokor's financial accounts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was the Croatian unit of UK-based accountancy and business advisory network Baker Tilly. Earlier this year, Agrokor said it has named PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as auditor of its 2016 financial statements after preliminary probes revealed that potential accounting errors might have been committed.
Todoric remains the owner of Agrokor. The government stripped him of his managerial rights in April this year when its special legislation designed to prevent the collapse of the indebted concern entered into force. The government justified the adoption of the law popularly known as Lex Agrokor by saying Agrokor is a company of systemic importance for the country and its collapse could have a catastrophic impact on the economy.