Croatian ex-premier gets 10 years for graft
ZAGREB - Reuters
Former Croatian PM Ivo Sanader sits in the courtroom in Zagreb. As prime minister between 2004 and 2009, Sanader was the most powerful man in the country. AP photoFormer Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader was sentenced to 10 years in prison yesterday 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 found Sanader, 59, guilty of agreeing in 2008 to accept a payment from Hungary’s energy group MOL of 5 million Euros in exchange for granting it full management rights over Croatia’s oil concern INA. Judge Ivan Turudic also 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”.
“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.
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.
Resigned without any explanation
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.
Sanader is on trial separately, together with his former conservative HDZ party, which is now in opposition, on charges of creating slush funds for the party by skimming off profits from state companies and by manipulating public tenders.