Croatia imprisons ex-defence chief
Berislav Roncevic sentenced to four years in jail after he was found guilty of corruption.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2010 20:36 GMT
Roncevic's case is the latest sign of the country's commitment to combat corruption in line with EU standards [Reuters]

A Croatian court has sentenced Berislav Roncevic, the country's former defence minister, to four years in prison after he was found guilty of graft.

Roncevic was convicted on Monday of cancelling a tender to buy army trucks in 2004 and  instead striking a "harmful deal" directly with suppliers whose price was $2.06m higher than that of the tender winners, state news agency Hina reported.

The supreme court in Zagreb, the country's capital, said he abused state funds by approving the purchase.

During the trial on Wednesday, Roncevic, a member of parliament for the ruling HDZ whose immunity was lifted for the court process, denied all the charges.

At his trial on Wednesday, Roncevic insisted the deal was legal and appropriate.

He said he had been advised that only trucks made by the Iveco firm fit Nato's criteria and added that he couldn't afford to hurt Croatia's Nato membership, which the country only achieved last year.

The trial and sentence of Roncevic was the latest sign of the Balkan country's commitment to combat graft in line with European Union requirements, as it the country hopes to complete EU entry talks early next year.

Moves to tackle graft in administration and state-controlled companies have advanced through a number of high-profile investigations and arrests since Ivo Sanader, the country's prime minister, unexpectedly quit in July 2009 and was replaced by Jadranka Kosor, his deputy.

Since then Croatia has also imposed a prison sentence on Damir Polancec, the former Deputy Prime Minister, for abuse of office and state funds.

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