Croatia: Ex-PM’s Corruption Retrial Set for September

Published: 03 August 2015

Ivo Sanader

By Beth Lacy

Zagreb county court has scheduled the retrial of Croatia’s former Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader, for September 7 on charges of abuse of office, war profiteering and bribery. 

Sanader had previously been handed an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence, but Croatia’s constitutional court overturned the verdict last Monday citing procedural errors.

The court decision emphasized that the quashing of Sanader’s convictions does not necessarily mean he is innocent of the charges, or a victim of political persecution.

The former premier had been convicted of receiving an illegal fee while serving as Croatia’s wartime deputy foreign minister in 1995.

In return for his lobbying efforts in a loan deal between Austria’s Hypo Bank and the Croatian government, Sanader accepted a cash “commission fee” from the bank equivalent to 5 percent of the loan, or 3.6 million Croatian kuna (US$ 523,000).

According to the constitutional court, the laws used to convict Sanader were not in force at the time of the Hypo transaction, and didn’t apply.

Sanader had also been found guilty of accepting a € 10 million bribe (US$ 10.97 million) from the chairman of Hungarian energy company MOL while he was prime minister in 2008, in return for securing a majority interest for MOL in Croatia’s energy company INA.

However, the constitutional court overturned this conviction on the grounds that the position of prime minister is not listed as an “official or responsible person” under the law.

Formerly head of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Sanader served as prime minister from 2003 until July 2009, when he suddenly resigned.

He was arrested in Austria in December 2010 while on the run from authorities, and extradited to Croatia in July 2011.

Sanader will remain in custody until his retrial begins, as he is currently serving a nine year sentence in another unrelated corruption case. He maintains that he is innocent of all charges.