Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader was yesterday sentenced to ten years in jail for taking bribes from two foreign companies, becoming the highest state official to be convicted of corruption in the future European Union member state.
Croatia is due to join the EU in July 2013 and Sanader’s conviction is likely to be seen as evidence it is cracking down on corruption. Its efforts to fight crime and graft are being carefully monitored before it formally joins the bloc.
A Zagreb court found Sanader, 59, guilty of agreeing in 2008 to accept a payment from Hungarian energy group MOL of €5 million in exchange for granting it full management rights over Croatia’s oil concern INA.
Judge Ivan Turudic also said Sanader had taken a fee from Austrian Hypo Alpe Adria Bank in 1995, when he was deputy foreign minister, which prosecutors had described as “war profiteering”. Croatia’s war of independence from Yugoslavia was winding down at the time.
Sanader has strongly denied wrongdoing and dismissed the trial as politically motivated. He will be detained until an appeal.
Judge Turudic said: “You have damaged Croatia’s reputation. Because you were a top state official, this verdict is a message to those engaged in politics that crime does not pay.”
Drazen Rajkovic, author of How Sanader Stole Croatia, said: “This verdict … sets a benchmark for all EU candidate countries.”