By: Gašper Blažič, V. K.
When the recent information about the exclusion of MP Mojca Pašek Šetinc from the Gibanje Svoboda party became public, it became clear that the deep state’s project to suppress media freedom (read: opposition press) is also under threat. Mojca Pašek Šetinc has so far led an investigative committee that has been dealing with the allegedly controversial financing of “media owned by SDS”, whatever that may mean.
Considering that the Gibanje Svoboda party has been losing ground due to internal issues, it is not surprising that the propaganda outlets of the deep state have now intensified their offensive and are suggesting even more about the alleged “controversial financing”. However, they forget that in doing so, they are actually writing about themselves – let us remember Mladina’s involvement in depleting the healthcare system or “vascular stents”.
How praises were sung for Mesec and healthcare financing
Let’s recall: In the summer of 2021, the Mladina magazine wrote lavish praises for the Levica party, then under the leadership of Luka Mesec, who is now the Minister of Labour and Deputy Prime Minister. They claimed that no one except the Levica was talking about insufficient healthcare financing. “All other politicians talk about healthcare, more or less populistically, mainly in connection with corruption,” they said, and praised the Levica for demanding more money for healthcare. “But beware. More money for healthcare is also more money for the company Distriest, the owner of Mladina, which supplies healthcare, including vascular stents,” we wrote at the time.
Supplying vascular stents received a lot of attention in the previous government’s term, as it was investigated by a parliamentary inquiry committee led by MP Jelka Godec. The committee’s report was recently approved by the National Assembly. In the report, the committee stated that there were suspicions that directors, procurement leaders, and certain doctors at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana and the University Medical Centre Maribor between 2007 and 2016 damaged public funds and acted in an uneconomical and unlawful manner. They were also accused of multiple violations of the Public Procurement Act, allowing certain suppliers to dominate the market for the sale of vascular stents. Certain individuals in Slovenian hospitals allegedly demanded payment from suppliers in exchange for the procurement of specific vascular stents, which was considered illegal. The committee recommended that the relevant authorities investigate possible violations of the European competition rules, particularly with regard to restricting competition in the Slovenian market, potential money laundering through the purchase and sale of ownership stakes in Mark Medical, Ltd., by KB 1909 from 2006 to 2015, and tax evasion due to transfer pricing in the supply chain of Mark Medical, Ltd., and Emporio Medical, Ltd., from 2003 to 2016.
Authorities must investigate the indications that money obtained from the sale of vascular stents was used to purchase ownership stakes in KB1909 in the company Distriest, Ltd. (the owner of Mladina d. d.) and for its capitalisation between 2007 and 2015. They should also examine the indications that money obtained from the sale of vascular stents was used to acquire ownership stakes in KB1909 in the company Mladina, d. d., and for its capitalisation in 2007. Additionally, the authorities should investigate indications that money obtained from the sale of vascular stents was used to purchase ownership stakes in KB1909 in the companies Distriest, Ltd., and Mark Medical, Ltd., from the company Vega Finanz s.a. between 2007 and 2015 and for capitalisation of companies in Italy and Slovenia.
And what about corruption?
If the healthcare sector had acted differently, in the University Medical Centre Ljubljana – let’s remember, Golob’s appointees recently pushed this institution into significant losses – they could have saved approximately 2.6 million euros just in the years 2012 and 2013. In the University Medical Centre Maribor, the savings in 2013 could have been over a million euros. All of this relates to the procurement of DES2 vascular stents. Even in the years from 2014 to 2016, savings could have been in the hundreds of thousands of euros. In accordance with the resolutions adopted at the 35th regular session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia on November 22nd, 2017, the investigative committee sent a notification of suspected criminal offenses to the National Bureau of Investigation (NPU) and the Specialised State Prosecutor’s Office against several individuals, including the following: MSc Simona Vrhunec, Dr Gregor Pivec, MSc Bojan Uran, Darko Zorman, Dr Matjaž Bunc, Dr Vojko Kanič, and Dr Dragan Kovačić. The committee’s final report also included a proposal for the competent authorities to investigate suspicions of multiple criminal offenses under the Criminal Code against Dr Peter Weissensteiner and suspicions of the criminal offense of accepting bribes for Hari Furlan, the criminal offense of giving bribes for Borut Miklavčič, and potential false testimony for Janez Zemljarič (who is now deceased). At the same time, there are suspicions that around 200 million euros have disappeared in the healthcare sector in recent years. So, there was enough money; there just seemed to be a shortage of the right stewards – as we reported on our website in the summer of 2021.
The deep state protected dirty businesses through the judiciary
In light of how the propaganda outlets of the current coalition are now proclaiming some alleged illegalities in the financial dealings of the small opposition press – with the weekly magazine Demokracija being the first target here! – it is worth asking how the deep state protected its own operators and deceived the public. Let’s remember: the specialised state prosecutor’s office, led by Harij Furlan in 2018, filed an indictment for suspected corruption in healthcare almost five years after numerous criminal investigations. In the midst of judicial and other holidays, they staged a show for the public in front of the selected TV cameras and threw sand in the eyes of the nation. Already on December 19th, 2013, investigators conducted searches at 58 addresses in the areas of the police departments in Koper, Ljubljana, Novo mesto, Celje, and Maribor. There were 14 suspects, and they were investigating 59 criminal acts of giving and receiving gifts. The head of the investigation was Robert Slodej from the National Criminal Investigation Office (NPU). The subject of the investigation was healthcare institutions and individuals, and the investigation was supposed to delve into the heart of corruption in healthcare. The investigators did their job and handed over the matters to the state prosecutor’s office. Then, after almost five years from the criminal investigations, the state prosecutor’s office conducted a spectacular filing of charges last week, which is supposed to be the result of these investigations.
Under Furlan’s leadership, the Specialised State Prosecutor’s Office filed the indictment with the District Court in Ljubljana during the judicial holidays and at the peak of the vacation season in Slovenia, in the presence of selected television cameras. It is clear that the selected individuals were specially informed about this. The prosecution brought the indictment with the accompanying documents, neatly stacked in boxes, to the Ljubljana court in a freight vehicle. The indictment was reported to be over 500 pages long with 20,000 appendices. It was filed against 15 individuals and one legal entity. These include eight doctors, their family members, two pharmacists, and three commercialists. None of the accused individuals come from supplier ranks, as emphasised by MP Jelka Godec at the time. This is a corruption scandal involving the bribery of doctors and other employees in certain healthcare institutions in exchange for the selection of medical supplies and drugs. According to the investigators, suppliers offered rewards to doctors and healthcare employees in return for purchasing their products. A bribe of five to twenty percent was reportedly included in the price. The total damages were estimated at 1.18 million euros. Suppliers allegedly transferred money to accounts specifically opened for this purpose in Austria, Germany, and Croatia. During the investigation, cash and gold bars were also found.
The Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office then praised the success of the Specialised State Prosecutor’s Office under the leadership of Hari Furlan. Even at the District Court in Ljubljana, still led by former criminologist Marjan Pogačnik, they hurried to make statements that they would “not be able” to conclude the cases within the expected timeframe because of the enormous amount of evidence. They also mentioned a lack of space and the need to store the evidence in one of the courtrooms, and they anticipated difficulties with later archiving the materials. They practically conveyed to the public that they should not expect a swift judicial resolution for the prosecution of corruption in healthcare. What this means for the accused in this case, and especially their lawyers, is also clear. Some have called the spectacular filing of charges and the burden of evidence almost five years after numerous house searches across Slovenia a smokescreen, and it seems to hold true.
The investigative commission did much more work than the judiciary
In the previous term of the National Assembly, a special investigative commission for uncovering abuses in the Slovenian healthcare system in the field of the sale and procurement of vascular stents, abbreviated as the Stent Investigation Commission, also dealt with corruption in healthcare. It was established in March 2016 upon the initiative of the SDS party, due to increasing concerns that vascular stents were being purchased in Slovenia at much higher prices than in foreign markets. The commission was chaired by MP Jelka Godec, and just before the end of its term in April 2018, the National Assembly approved its final report. Based on the documents collected during the investigation and the statements of numerous witnesses, they found that vascular stents in Slovenia were approximately five times more expensive in 2013 and 2014 compared to known data from abroad. This suggests that by purchasing these stents at comparable prices in the European market, savings of approximately 5.8 million euros could have been achieved during those years. Furthermore, the investigative commission found that there was suspicion that suppliers, in addition to covering the costs of education, also financed various trips and vacations for the responsible individuals in some hospitals, as well as for their family members. In some cases, there was also suspicion that suppliers handed over material goods to those who decided on procurement or even transferred money to the bank accounts of private medical companies. In some instances, there was suspicion that money was handed over to suppliers “off the record”. The investigative commission led by Jelka Godec determined that most violations occurred with the company Mark Medical, the supplier of vascular stents for the Slovenian market, which sold half of all necessary vascular stents to the University Medical Centre Ljubljana in a decade. The highest share was in 2009, reaching a remarkable 91 percent.
Mark Medical, located in Sežana, is a subsidiary of the parent company Mark Medical in Italy, which was part of the financial group KB 1909 until the end of 2015, headquartered in Gorizia, Italy. The owner of Mark Medical was also Vega Finanz in Luxembourg, which was founded by the notorious intelligence organisation Safti. In the operation of Mark Medical, part of the money they received from the sale of medical supplies is believed to have indirectly flowed into the bank account of Vega Finanz in Luxembourg.
The trails lead to Mladina
Witnesses before the investigative commission either did not want or purportedly did not know who the owner of Vega Finanz is. The answer to this question is significant in terms of potential financing of companies and individuals in Slovenia or with regard to other transactions on bank accounts in Slovenia. Connections also point to Mladina. Based on testimonies before the investigative commission, there is suspicion that KB 1909 may have acquired a stake in Mladina just when Mark Medical was achieving its highest revenue growth from the sale of vascular stents. Thus, there is a suspicion that taxpayer money spent on the purchase of vascular stents may have flowed into the purchase and capitalisation of the company Mladina.
Based on these findings, the investigative commission then proposed reporting criminal offenses against specific individuals under various articles of the Penal Code, namely against Darko Zorman, Matjaž Bunc, Vojko Kanič, Dragan Kovačič, Simon Vrhunec, and Gregor Pivec. They also suggested that the relevant authorities investigate potential suspicions outlined in the report for the companies Mark Medical, Bormia Med, Vasc-med, Animus, Kastor, Salus, and KB 1909.
The former Minister of Health, Milojka Kolar Celarc, bears responsibility
The final report of the investigative commission also states that the now former Minister of Health, Milojka Kolar Celarc, is subjectively responsible for the situation. She failed to take measures that she should have taken to replace individuals for whom the investigative commission had reported suspicions of criminal offenses from positions that enabled business decisions or decisions in public tenders. One of the conclusions also pertained to Slovenian suppliers of vascular stents and multinational companies. Importantly, the commission, based on the reviewed evidence and testimony of witnesses, recommended that the competent authorities investigate suspicions of the following: the criminal offense of negligence in performing official duties, the criminal offense of bribery for Harij Furlan, the head of SDT; the criminal offense of bribery for Borut Miklavčič, and the criminal offense of embezzlement of public funds and negligence in performing official duties for Dr Peter Weissensteiner.
What do MP Jelka Godec and top doctor Blaž Mrevlje think about the indictment after investigations in 2013
Jelka Godec: “The Specialised State Prosecutor’s Office (SDT) could have filed the indictment at any time from 2013 onwards. Since then, they had evidence like the statements of Ms. Urška Jurković about bribing doctors, as well as evidence such as bank transfers, gold bars, bank card numbers, etc. SDT chose to stage a document handover show to the court in the middle of the summer, five (5) years after receiving most of the evidence, even during the judicial holidays. It is worth noting that the issue of the statute of limitations, violations of laws, etc., is in question. The indictment is supposed to contain accusations against doctors, but nowhere is there any mention of accusations against suppliers. Perhaps this is because Harij Furlan would have found himself, or at least his brother, who sold medical supplies as the owner of the company Primsell, in that part of the investigation.”
Blaž Mrevlje: “This is a bizarre public spectacle that might have worked five years ago. After the story of vascular stents, nothing is the same as it was. Harij Furlan or the SDT under his leadership did virtually nothing regarding organised crime and systemic corruption in healthcare. They protected both. That is why I say that the SDT, as well as the NPU, are farcical and controlled impotent institutions. Corrupt Milojka threw 136 million euros to the medical-supplier mafia for overpriced medical supplies. Did the SDT spring into action? The Court of Audit, in the first two years of Corrupt Milojka’s ministering, found that there were 70 million euros of unlawfully purchased material in UKC Ljubljana without public tenders. Did the SDT react? In the case of vascular stents, we lowered the prices to European levels and saved around 3 million euros annually, totalling more than 10 million euros so far. The investigative commission led by Jelka Godec handed everything to the SDT in the report. Did the SDT act? We know that the same method of overpricing applies to all other medical supplies, medicines, maintenance, construction, and IT services. Perhaps the SDT is searching the Slovenian hospitals? Then they stage a spectacle, almost live broadcast, about the transportation of boxes in Ljubljana, and this just two days after the resonant article by academic professor Mark Noč in the Saturday supplement, which once again explicitly exposed this Balkan misery. At the same time, the court already states that they will not have time to handle a similar quantity of material that Jelka Godec personally reviewed in six months within a reasonable timeframe, despite all the technical and human capacities they have at their disposal. They also said they do not have space for 30 boxes. These boxes are a maximum of 3x3x3 meters if stacked together. Who do all these gentlemen take for fools? Another proof of a hijacked and mafia-controlled state.”
It is clear which media outlets are illegally financed in our country and who the main victim is in this situation.