Croatia Court Orders Retrial for Ex-PM Sanader

Ivo Sanader

Croatia’s constitutional court on Monday (July 27) revoked the verdicts that sentenced former ex-premier Sanader to eight and a half years in prison for abuse of office, war profiteering and bribery.

The verdicts were overturned because of procedural errors, the court said, and the legal process against Sanader will now restart at Zagreb county court.

“It seems to me that the constitutional court has taken the role of the ‘corrector’ of certain failures of previous courts,” said Sanader’s lawyer Cedo Prodanovic as he welcomed the ruling.

Sanader was found guilty of receiving an illegal fee in talks between Austria’s Hypo Bank and the Croatian government between end of 1994 and March 1995, during the war in the country.

He was also found guilty of receiving a 10 million euro bribe from the officials at Hungarian energy company MOL, during their acquisition of a share in Croatia’s energy company INA in 2008-09.

The constitutional court found that his right to fair trial was breached in both cases.

Regarding the alleged bribery, the court said that Sanader was not defined as “an official or responsible person” under the law and therefore could not have committed the act of bribery as described in the law.

Sanader allegedly met and received a 10 million euro bribe from MOL’s chair Zsolt Hernadi in 2008. According to the now annulled verdicts, the bribe was used for signing a controversial management agreement between the Croatian government and MOL in January 2009, which the current government considers both unfavourable and illegal.

Before his trial restarts at Zagreb county court, Sanader will remain in custody, due to a first-degree judgment which sentenced him to nine years in prison for using private marketing companies to siphon off public funds from state institutions and bodies.

Prodanovic said however that in August Sanader will exceed the maximum legal time one can spend in the custody prison and therefore will be able to go free.

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 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      July 27, 2015