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ZAGREB (Croatia), July 11 (SeeNews) - Croatia's deputy parliament speaker and leader of MOST party, Bozo Petrov, called for the resignation of prime minister Andrej Plenkovic after it emerged that finance minister Zdravko Maric had been well aware of the financial crisis in ailing concern Agrokor months before it was made public, local media reported on Tuesday.
Croatia's largest privately-held concern Agrokor has been in financial turmoil since January when global ratings agency Moody's downgraded its corporate family rating. Following Moody's decision, Agrokor pulled out of a syndicated loan deal it had struck with several international lenders, which sent the price of its bonds on international markets into a downward spiral. In April the Croatian parliament adopted a law, allowing the government to appoint temporary administrators to lead a restructuring process at the request of the company's creditors or the debtor itself.
"This is no longer a question of whether Zdravko Maric can be minister but whether Plenkovic will be held accountable," Petrov said, as quoted by news agency Hina.
Croatian weekly Nacional recently published documents which suggest that Maric, who is also the chairman of state-owned development bank HBOR's supervisory board, knew of Agrokor's serious financial issues already at the end of 2016 when HBOR issued the concern a 48.3 million euro ($55.1 million) loan.
Furthermore, the weekly claims that Maric, who was employed in Agrokor prior to entering politics, had been informed about the concern's financial state even earlier.
"Zdravko Maric came to the position of minister to help [Agrokor former owner] Ivica Todoric, and he did," Hina quoted Petrov as saying.
Petrov also noted that Plenkovic should step down as prime minister because he "knew everything about Maric but did nothing".
MPs of Croatia's biggest opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), backed Petrov in seeking Maric's resignation.
Earlier this year, Croatia's previous government coalition consisting of HDZ and their junior partner centre-right MOST party, fell apart after MOST's ministers were sacked from the government for refusing to support Maric, against whom the opposition had filed a no-confidence motion. SDP sought the vote of no-confidence in Maric over the way he handled the financial crisis in Agrokor. The no-confidence motion was also backed by MOST and its leader Petrov.
Maric narrowly survived the vote, which led to the resignation of Petrov from the post of parliament speaker.
HDZ went on to form a new government with Croatia's liberal People's Party, HNS.