By Anja Vladisavljevic
Zagreb County Court on Monday convicted former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of war profiteering for accepting an unlawful payment of 3.6 million kunas (around 485,000 euros) during talks between Austria’s Hypo Bank and the Croatian government.
The talks took place during the war, between late 1994 and March 1995, when Sanader was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He was sentenced to two years and six months in prison and ordered to repay 3.6 million kunas to the state budget, and to pay the costs of the court proceedings. His time spent in custody so far will be counted towards his sentence.
Sanader, who was Croatia’s premier between December 2003 and July 2009, is also the former leader of the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, which is currently in government.
Zagreb County Court on Monday also acquitted Sanader and another defendant, Robert Jezic, of abuse of office over the sale of cut-price electricity.
According to the indictment, Sanader instructed Croatia’s state electricity firm HEP to lend money and sell cut-price electricity to chemical company Dioki, which was owned by his friend Jezic.
In this case, the prosecution also charged the former director of HEP Ivan Mravak, who died in the meantime. However, his defence wants these proceedings to be suspended as Sanader’s lawyers failed to examine Mravak, who testified to the charges against the former prime minister, while he was still alive.
The Hypo Bank case was previously merged with the INA-MOL case, in which Sanader was convicted in 2014 of accepting a 10-million-euro bribe for selling the state energy company INA to Hungary’s oil firm MOL.
However, the Constitutional Court annulled the verdict in 2015, separating the two cases and ordered that the trials begin again from the start.
Sanader’s trial in the INA-MOL case begins on Tuesday.
The former premier was initially arrested in Austria in December 2010, while on the run from the authorities. He was extradited to Croatia in July 2011 and has been in custody since then.
He also faces another pending retrial in the Fimi Media case.
Sanader was found guilty in March 2014 by Zagreb County Court of abuse of office and corruption charges, along with two other officials from the HDZ, for unlawfully pumping 10.4 million euros of public funds into a private marketing agency called Fimi Media.
The first verdict in the Fimi Media case, which sentenced Sanader to nine years in prison, was quashed in 2015.
Sanader was also convicted last year under a first-instance verdict in the so-called ‘Planinska case’, named after the building in Zagreb’s Planinska Street which was owned by Sanader’s friend and fellow MP Stjepan Fiolic, and sold to the government for 80 million kunas (10 million euro).
In April 2017, Sanader was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison, and a Supreme Court decision is pending on an appeal.