Fraud trial of Croatia's former PM postponed

Judge reschedules trial for next week after Ivo Sanader complains of heart problems minutes after hearing begins.

    Ivo Sanader, centre, has denied charges of receiving kickbacks from an Austrian bank [AFP]

    A court in the Croatian capital of Zagreb has postponed the corruption trial of a former prime minister, citing health reasons.

    The judge scheduled a new court hearing for November 3 after Ivo Sanader, who was premier for six years before quitting abruptly in 2009, complained of heart problems and high blood pressure just 40 minutes into Friday's trial.

    Sanader, 58, faces charges of receiving kickbacks from an Austrian bank during his time as deputy foreign minister in the 1990s. He has denied the charges.

    Dressed casually and looking frail, Sanader apologised to the judge for not wearing a suit, saying he believed he was being taken from his prison cell to see a doctor.

    "I am sorry I came here dressed like this. I was told I was going to the hospital," he said as he took the seat in the courtroom.

    "I feel symptoms of high blood pressure, just as I have over the past few weeks. I feel pressure in my chest."

    He was taken to hospital for checkups after the court hearing.

    EU scrutiny

    Sanader is accused of taking an estimated $695,000 for a credit deal with Hypo Alpe Adria Group in 1994 that allowed the Austrian bank entry into the Croatian market.

    The charges say Croatia was at war for independence from Yugoslavia at the time and that Sanader "used the difficult position of the country to gain personal financial profit".

    He was extradited to Croatia from Austria in July to face several separate charges of corruption, including allegedly taking a $14m bribe to secure the Hungarian energy company MOL a dominant position in Croatia's market.

    Sanader's trial comes only a month before Croatia's parliamentary elections. 

    The ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which he once headed, also faces an investigation by the country's anti-fraud authorities for illegal financing.

    Croatia, which has been under the European Union's scrutiny for widespread corruption, is set to become the bloc's 28th member in 2013.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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