Court Frees Former Croatian PM Sanader

Zagreb County Court has ordered Ivo Sanader’s release following an earlier ruling of the constitutonal court, although Croatia’s anti-graft body, USKOK, has said it will appeal.


Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader left prison custody on Wednesday following a ruling by the Zagreb County Court that morning. The county court decision came after Croatia’s constitutional court terminated Sanader’s custody on Tuesday, giving the county court until December 1 to pass a new decision.Sanader had been in prison since November 2012.

The Croatian Constitutional Court on September 30 ruled that were no legal grounds to keep Sanader behind bars after the Supreme Court acquitted him in the so-called “Fimi Media’ case. In relation to the Fimi Media case, the County Court in March 2014 jailed Sanader for nine years and fined him 2 million euro for using a private marketing company, Fimi Media, to pump money out of public companies and institutions. After being acquitted due to violations of criminal procedures and breaches to the right to fair trial, the Supreme Court returned the case to the County Court for retrial, setting bail at 1.6 million euro, due to the risk of him escaping.

His legal team offered a various items of real estate for bail, which the Court refused to accept, claiming some of them were not legally listed or their value was dubious. The Zagreb Court spokesperson, Kresimir Devcic, said on Wednesday that Sanader would be released as soon as the prison received the decision. He noted that the Croatian Office for Suppressing Corruption and Organised Crime, USKOK, could appeal against the decision, but that the Sanader was free in the meantime.

Deputy head of USKOK Zeljka Mostecak confirmed that USKOK would in fact appeal the decision. Sanader’s lawyer, Jadranka Slokovic, said his passport had been returned to him and he was now free to travel without restrictions or limitations.

Before the Constitutional Court quashed Sanader’s earlier prison sentence for corruption and war profiteering issued by the Supreme Court in June 2014, Sanader was found guilty of receiving 10 million euro in bribes for selling the energy company INA to Hungary’s oil company MOL and for taking illegal fees in talks between Austria’s Hypo Bank and the government between late 1994 and March 1995, during the war in Croatia.

Since his retrial was set for September, the County Court decided not to release Sanader in August. At the first hearing in September, Sanader’s lawyers demanded that the president of the court Ivan Turudic, who tried Sanader in the first instance, be excluded from the process and replaced with another judge, accusing him of partiality. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and ordered that a new judge should take over the case.

Sanader 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 ever since. As president of the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, he was Prime Minister between December 2003 and July 2009, when he suddenly left the position to his deputy, Jadranka Kosor.

Balkan Insight 

26 November 2015