Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, center, applauds prior the quarterfinal match between Russia and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Fisht Stadium, in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, July 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Convicted Croatia team official keeps World Cup VIP status

MOSCOW — A Croatian soccer official will be allowed to watch the team’s World Cup semifinal match from a VIP section on Wednesday despite being convicted last month in a corruption case linked to the transfer of captain Luka Modric.

When Croatia beat Russia in the quarterfinals on Saturday, the director general of the country’s soccer federation sat in the same row of seats as Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Damir Vrbanovic has stayed in office since being sentenced in June to a three-year jail term even though FIFA’s disciplinary code bars officials “convicted of a criminal offence in the past five years.”

However, FIFA says the sentence is not final because the former Dinamo Zagreb director general is appealing to a higher court.

“The evaluation of the position of the person concerned, then, is made only by its national association according to the applicable national law,” FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The Croatian federation said any other interpretation would be “unconstitutional and serious violation of his human rights.”

“In accordance to the Croatian and general law, Mr. Vrbanovic is innocent because the relevant judgment is not final and binding,” the soccer body said in a statement to the AP.

The criminal case hasn’t affected Croatia’s progress to its first World Cup semifinal in 20 years, despite Modric being charged with perjury in March.

Defender Dejan Lovren, another former Dinamo Zagreb player, is also under investigation for suspected false statements.

The case relates to alleged embezzlement and tax evasion in Dinamo’s sales of Modric to Tottenham in 2008 and Lovren to Lyon in 2010.

Prosecutors targeted Zdravko Mamic, a longtime influential figure in Croatian soccer as former Dinamo director, former vice-president of the national federation, and close ally of current president Davor Suker.

Mamic was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and left Croatia for Bosnia-Herzegovina before the verdict was reached on June 6. His brother, Zoran, a former Dinamo coach, was sentenced to 4 years, 11 months.

They were accused of embezzling 15 million euros ($17.6 million) through fictitious deals during transfers of several Dinamo players to clubs outside Croatia.

Modric appeared irritated when asked on June 15 in Kaliningrad if the case was a cloud over Croatia’s tournament ahead of its opening game against Nigeria.

“Nothing smarter to ask?” Modric said. “It’s a World Cup, it’s not about other things.”

Suker, the star forward in Croatia’s 1998 World Cup team and an elected member of UEFA’s executive committee, has not been implicated. He declined to talk with reporters at a Moscow hotel on Sunday.

UEFA said Wednesday it is awaiting developments to assess Vrbanovic’s role as a member of European soccer’s committee overseeing national team competitions.

FIFA said it is “monitoring the situation concerning Mr. Vrbanovic as it expects all officials and member associations involved in the 2018 FIFA World Cup to abide by the core values of fair play and protect the image of football.”

___

More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

Just Posted

RCMP on scene of collision near Rimbey

Hwy 53 down to one lane at collision scene

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

Fundraiser to help keep kids warm in Blackfalds

Community Warmth Fall Fundraiser

Piper Creek Foundation gets a new name

Red Deer subsidized housing program for seniors

Reveen returns to Red Deer

Presented by Friends of Red Deer Regional Hospital

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Rafael Nadal to skip tournaments in Asia because of bad knee

MADRID — Rafael Nadal says he will not play in upcoming tournaments… Continue reading

Canadian crabs with bad attitude threaten coastal Maine ecosystem

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Canadians are known as friendly folks, but these crabby… Continue reading

UK lawmakers: ‘Wild West’ cryptocurrencies need regulation

LONDON — British lawmakers have backed calls for greater regulation of cryptocurrencies… Continue reading

Proposed class action lawsuit on trailing commissions filed against CIBC

TORONTO — A class action lawsuit regarding trailing commissions paid to discount… Continue reading

Saskatchewan family reunited with dog that bolted during July 2017 farm visit

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — A family in Moose Jaw, Sask., is overjoyed… Continue reading

Ex-aide is star witness of panel probing French crisis

PARIS — A former security aide of French President Emmanuel Macron who… Continue reading

German doctors: Pussy Riot poisoning ‘highly plausible’

BERLIN — German doctors treating a member of Russian protest group Pussy… Continue reading

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

Most Read