[QODLink]
Europe

Former PM of Croatia jailed for corruption

Ivo Sanader is found guilty of taking bribes from two foreign companies and is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2012 19:44
Former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has strongly denied wrongdoing and dismissed the trial as politically motivated [Reuters]

The former Croatian prime minister has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from two foreign companies, becoming the highest state official to be convicted of corruption in the future European Union member state.

A Zagreb county court on Tuesday found Ivo Sanader, 59, guilty of agreeing in 2008 to accept a payment from Hungary's energy group MOL of five million euros in exchange for granting it full management rights over Croatia's oil concern INA.

Croatia is due to join the EU in July 2013 and Sanader's conviction is likely to be seen as evidence it is cracking down on corruption. Its efforts to fight crime and graft are being carefully monitored before it formally joins the bloc.

Hungarian oil and gas giant MOL "rejected categorically" bribing Sanader.

"A crime did not happen, MOL did not give any kind of payment to politicians or decision-makers," the company said in a statement.

MOL said it considers the case to be "less about MOL and INA and more as a Croatian political matter."

The ruling, against which Sanader is likely to appeal, sent MOL shares in Budapest down 3.7 per cent by the close of business on Tuesday, compared with 1.5 per cent fall in the main index.

'War profiteering'

Judge Ivan Turudic said Sanader had taken a fee from Austrian Hypo Alpe Adria Bank in 1995, when he was deputy foreign minister, that prosecutors had described as "war profiteering". Croatia's war of independence from Serbian-led federal Yugoslavia was winding down at the time.

Sanader has strongly denied wrongdoing and dismissed the trial as politically motivated. He will be detained until the appeal.

"You have damaged Croatia's reputation. Because you were a top state official, this verdict is a message to those engaged in politics that crime does not pay," Turudic said.

"This verdict will certainly be welcomed in the EU, and it sets a benchmark for all EU candidate countries," said Drazen Rajkovic, author of the book "How Sanader Stole Croatia".

As prime minister between 2004 and 2009, Sanader was the most powerful man in Croatia, known for smart suits and expensive watches, and his fall from grace coincides with Croatia's campaign to root out corruption.

Sanader resigned in July 2009, unexpectedly and without explanation.

Jadranka Kosor, his hand-picked successor, then launched an anti-graft drive that helped Zagreb complete European Union entry talks in June 2011.

396

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
In Brussels, NGO staff are being trained to fill the shortfall of field workers in West Africa.
Lawsuit by 6-year-old girl, locked up for a year, reignites debate over indefinite detention of 'boat people'.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Citizens of the tiny African nation say they're increasingly anxious of the fallout after alleged coup.
A humanitarian crisis and a budget crisis converge in the heart of the human smuggling corridor in Texas.
join our mailing list