By Bojana Barlovac
Ivo Sanader has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from two foreign companies.
A Zagreb court on Tuesday sentenced Ivo Sanader to three-and-a-half years in prison in the “Hypo Alpe Adria Bank” case and for seven years in the “MOL-INA” case. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 5 million euro.
“You were found guilty of both offences for which you were charged,” the presiding judge Ivan Turudic said, reading the verdict.
Sanader was charged with taking half a million euro in bribes from Austria’s Hypo bank in 1994 in order to allow the bank to enter the Croatian financial market.
He was also charged with taking 10 million euro in bribes from the Hungarian oil company MOL, in order to give MOL a dominant position in the Croatian oil company, INA.
MOL was a shareholder in INA, but Sanader was accused of giving MOL more authority in the company than its shareholding should have allowed.
The two indictments were consolidated in November 2011, soon after the trial for the Hypo bank case started in October 2011.
The trial lasted for a year, and about 30 witnesses testified in the court.
In the closing arguments last week, the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of 15 years, while the defence sought Sanader’s release.
One more trial against Sanader is ongoing. Another indictment has meanwhile been filed against him for allegedly creating a slush fund for his party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, by skimming off profits from state-owned companies and manipulating public tenders.
The 59-year-old, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2009, is the highest ranking former official in Croatia to be tried for graft.
Croatia has been under pressure from the European Union to take a tough line with corruption, and Brussels has followed the case closely. The country is in line to join the EU in June 2013.
Both the defendant and prosecutors have the right to appeal, in which case the Supreme Court will deliver a final verdict.
Sanader was elected premier in 2003 and 2007, and left office without explanation in 2009. He was arrested in December 2010 in Austria on an international arrest warrant and was extradited to Croatia in July 2011.