Zdravko Mamic, Croatian football's Mr Big, given jail term

  • Published
Zdravko Mamic file picImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Mamic left Croatia on the night before the verdict, maintaining the trial had been unfair

He is considered the most powerful figure in football in Croatia, but now Zdravko Mamic has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for corruption.

Mamic was found guilty of siphoning off millions of euros in transfer fees when he was an executive at Dinamo Zagreb.

On the eve of the verdict he fled across the border into Bosnia.

Among the ex-Dinamo players caught up in the trial is Croatia captain Luka Modric, who was charged with perjury.

The Real Madrid midfielder is suspected of having made false statements during the trial, when he was questioned about his 2008 transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. He has not commented on the charge.

The case will not affect his role in the World Cup in Russia later this month.

Who is Mamic?

Zdravko Mamic was not just chief executive of Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia's biggest club, he was also vice-president of the Croatian Football Federation (HNS).

For years fans at Dinamo alleged that he and his allies had used their club to make money for themselves by depriving the club of funds from lucrative transfers and evading taxes. Then in 2015 he and his brother Zoran, the Dinamo coach, were arrested.

The scandal was brought on to the international stage when Croatian football supporters threw flares on the pitch at the Euro 2016 championships in France.

Charged with diverting 116m Croatian kuna (€15.7m; £14m) from the football club and evading another 12.2m in tax, Mamic was later shot and wounded on a visit to his father's grave.

The court in Osijek also handed down jail terms to his brother Zoran Mamic, former club director Damir Vrbanovic, and tax inspector Milan Pernar. None of the accused were in court to hear their sentences, but they have all denied the charges and have the right to appeal.

Fans' prayers answered

By Guy Delauney, BBC Balkans correspondent

The night before the verdict Zdravko Mamic fled to a shrine at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he holds dual citizenship. Whatever he did there, supporters of Dinamo Zagreb will feel that their prayers have been answered.

They have been protesting against Mr Mamic's stewardship of the club for years. Dinamo is supposed to be a fan-owned, non-profit organisation. But fans claimed that Mr Mamic and his associates had staged a "silent privatisation", with the aim of sucking money out of the club.

The best-known supporters' group, The Bad Blue Boys, have been boycotting matches - making for an eerie atmosphere at Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium. Some formed a breakaway club, Futsal Dinamo.

Now the court has agreed with the supporters' interpretation of Mr Mamic's modus operandi.