Police on Friday arrested 39 people in connection with an extensive bribery case at a Croatian university where students are suspected of having paid professors to illegitimately pass their exams.

“Students who study and get their diplomas with merit have the right to expect a job in Croatia. But the fact is that some people are passing their exams in another way which is unacceptable,” the head of the national anti-graft bureau USKOK Dinko Cvitan told journalists. “It is a big shame.”

The suspects, including five professors, one assistant lecturer and 21 students, were arrested in the eastern town of Osijek, where they belonged to the faculty of economics at the local university.

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The remaining 12 are suspected of having acted as middle-men.

It was not immediately clear whether the students are suspected of having bribed their professors to get advance copies of the exams, or whether they paid to bump up their grades regardless of their performance.

The suspects would be questioned later on Friday, Cvitan said without elaborating.

Local media reported that students paid at least 1,000 euros ($1,300) for the service.

Corruption in Croatian universities first came to light in 2008. Since then dozens of professors, students and middle-men have been charged.

So far, more than 20 professors and 40 students of the Zagreb University have been convicted in bribes-for-grades cases, and sentenced to jail terms of up to two-and-a-half years.

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Cracking down on corruption was among the key condition for Croatia to join the European Union, of which it is set to become a member on July 1.



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