Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Ex-Premier of Croatia Is Sentenced for Graft ; Sanader Gets 10 Years in Corruption Crackdown; He Is Expected to Appeal

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Ex-Premier of Croatia Is Sentenced for Graft ; Sanader Gets 10 Years in Corruption Crackdown; He Is Expected to Appeal

Article excerpt

Analysts said the ruling was a watershed for the Balkan country, which has pledged to stamp out corruption before joining the European Union in July 2013.

A former prime minister of Croatia, Ivo Sanader, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison on corruption charges, including taking bribes from two foreign companies, becoming the most senior official in the former Yugoslavia to face jail time for graft.

Analysts said the ruling was a watershed for the Balkan country, which has pledged to stamp out corruption before joining the European Union in July 2013. Croatia has been struggling to overcome lawlessness and corruption, the legacy of the bloody Balkan wars of the 1990s and decades of Communist rule.

Mr. Sanader, 59, who served as prime minister from the end of 2003 until 2009, was convicted of accepting a bribe of EUR 5 million, or $6.4 million, from the Hungarian energy group MOL in return for making sure that it secured controlling rights in Croatia's state oil company INA. Analysts said the Croatian government could potentially review the shareholding agreement with MOL, which has denied any wrongdoing.

The former prime minister was also accused of war profiteering for receiving EUR 545,000 in kickbacks from Hypo Alpe Adria Bank of Austria in 1995 when he was deputy foreign minister and Croatia was under an international trade embargo during its war of independence from the former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Sanader, who betrayed little emotion as the verdict was read, has denied the charges throughout the one-year trial, saying they were politically motivated. He is expected to appeal.

He still faces a separate trial on charges of creating slush funds for his political party, the Croatian Democratic Union, by siphoning profits from state companies and influencing public tenders. The party, which governed for eight years until its defeat in December 2011 elections, is now in opposition.

Mr. Sanader was once one of the most powerful men in Croatia, a seemingly untouchable figure. He helped transform the conservative Croatian Democratic Union, the nationalist party of the wartime leader Franjo Tudjman, into a pro-European Union party and also shepherded the country toward NATO. …

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