A former Croatian prime minister and the head of an Hungarian oil company have been found guilty of corruption by a court in Zagreb, bringing to an end a case that has lasted for nearly a decade.
Ivo Sanader, who served as prime minister between 2003 and 2009, and Zsolt Hernadi, who heads the Hungarian oil company MOL, were convicted for “receiving and giving a bribe” concerning a 2009 deal after the Hungarian firm purchased shares in the Croatian oil and gas group INA.
“Ivo Sanader agreed with Hernadi to ensure, for the sum of 10 million euros, that Croatia would give MOl the decision-making process in INA,” explained the judge Maja Stampar Stipic in her ruling.
“As the top state official, Sanader … jeopardized Croatia’s vital economic interests,” prosecutor Tonci Petkovic said in his final statement.
Defence attorneys for Hernadi, argued that the prosecutors did not prove an “incriminating tie” between the two defendants.
Neither Sanader, who is imprisoned for another case, nor Hernadi, whom the Hungarian authorities refused to extradite, were present at the reading of the sentence.
The former prime minister, who is ensnared in several corruption cases, has been serving a sentence since April this year for embezzlement in relation to the purchase of a building for the Ministry of Agriculture committed in 2009.
Both men pleaded not guilty and can appeal the verdict.
Sanader’s lawyers have announced that they are going to appeal the sentence for “a series of irregularities”, while the Prosecutor’s Office has announced that it will ask for the increase of the penalty
“We are not surprised, but disappointed that the court came to this decision,” said MOL spokesman Domokos Szollar in a statement adding that the verdict was “unfair and completely unfounded” and cast “dark shadows on the Croatian legal system”.
Sanader’s lawyer also wants to appeal the verdict – as does the public prosecutor, who found the punishment too mild.