Slovenia refutes Draghi's accusations

Slovenia's law enforcement authorities on Thursday contested claims made by European Central Bank (ECB) governor Mario Draghi on the Slovenian police having encroached on the internal system of the Slovenian central bank.

In response to Draghi's accusations, Slovenian police spokesman Drago Menegalija said that a search of the central bank's premises in Ljubljana was in accordance with laws and was conducted in line with an order by an investigating judge.

Thus, the spokesman said, the search was not in contravention of the protocol on the privileges and immunities of members of the EU and the ECB.

Slovenia's Attorney General Zvonko Fiser said today that the police investigation in the central bank's headquarters had been performed in line with laws and a court order.

He also criticised the Bank of Slovenia for having refused to deliver the requested documentation voluntarily, saying that this was why the police had to search the premises and seize the relevant documentation as part of a preliminary investigation procedure.

Draghi wrote in the letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he was  informed "by Mr Jazbec, the Governor of Banka  Slovenije, that Slovenian authorities searched the premises of Banka Slovenije on 6 July 2016 and seized ECB information held by Banka Slovenije, in particular information stored on the internal network of Banka Slovenije and on IT hardware used by the Governor, a former Deputy Governor and some staff members in the course of a pre-criminal investigation procedure."

"Seizure of information owned or held by the ECB, irrespective of where the information is located and whether it is classified or not,  infringes the Protocol on the  Privileges and Immunities of the European Union (Article 2 in conjunction with Article 22(1))," Draghi wrote in his letter.

The Slovenian police on Wednesday carried out several probes as part of preliminary proceedings regarding alleged irregularities in the financial rehabilitation of Slovenian banks in 2013.

The probes included a search of the central bank's offices. The police confirmed that the operation was based on a criminal report alleging that some senior officials of that institution, including governor Jazbec, abused their office because at the time of the Slovenian banking crisis, they made the situation in banks look worse than it really was, after which those banks were bailed out with public money.

According to the criminal report filed with the police two years ago by an association of small shareholders, several physical persons, banks and audit companies in 2013 adjusted particularly strict criteria for the bailout of state-owned banks to enable banks to unjustifiably write off ownership stakes and rights concerning so-called subordinated bonds, thus favouring banks and the state as their majority owner. This way 257 million euros of illegal gain was acquired by Slovenia's biggest bank, NLB, alone, the small shareholders allege.

The dispute between the owners of written-off bonds and the state has not been resolved yet and a ruling by the Slovenian Constitutional Court is being awaited. Separate proceedings in this case have been launched before the Court of the EU in Luxembourg as well.

Last update: Thu, 07/07/2016 - 17:54


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