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Convicted Croatia team official keeps World Cup VIP status

AP  |  Moscow 

A Croatian official will be allowed to watch the team's semifinal match from a VIP section on Wednesday despite being convicted last month in a corruption case linked to the transfer of Luka

When beat in the quarterfinals on Saturday, the general of the country's federation sat in the same row of seats as Croatian and Russian

has stayed in office since being sentenced in June to a three-year jail term even though FIFA's disciplinary code bars officials "convicted of a criminal offense in the past five years."

However, says the sentence is not final because the former Zagreb general is appealing to a higher court.

"The evaluation of the position of the person concerned, then, is made only by its national association according to the applicable national law," said in a statement to

The Croatian federation said any other interpretation would be "unconstitutional and serious violation of his human rights." "In accordance to the Croatian and general law, Mr. Vrbanovic is innocent because the relevant judgment is not final and binding," the body said in a statement to the AP.

The criminal case hasn't affected Croatia's progress to its first semifinal in 20 years, despite being charged with perjury in March.

Defender Dejan Lovren, another former Zagreb player, is also under investigation for suspected false statements.

The case relates to alleged embezzlement and tax evasion in Dinamo's sales of to Tottenham in 2008 and Lovren to in 2010.

Prosecutors targeted Zdravko Mamic, a longtime influential figure in Croatian soccer as former director, former vice of the national federation, and close ally of current

Mamic was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and left for Bosnia-Herzegovina before the verdict was reached on June 6. His brother, Zoran, a former Dinamo coach, was sentenced to 4 years, 11 months.

They were accused of embezzling 15 million euros ($17.6 million) through fictitious deals during transfers of several Dinamo players to clubs outside

Modric appeared irritated when asked on June 15 in Kaliningrad if the case was a cloud over Croatia's tournament ahead of its opening game against

"Nothing smarter to ask?" Modric said. "It's a World Cup, it's not about other things." Suker, the star forward in Croatia's 1998 team and an elected member of UEFA's committee, has not been implicated. He declined to talk with reporters at a Moscow hotel on Sunday.

said Wednesday it is awaiting developments to assess Vrbanovic's role as a member of European soccer's committee overseeing national team competitions. said it is "monitoring the situation concerning Mr. Vrbanovic as it expects all officials and member associations involved in to abide by the core values of fair play and protect the image of

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, July 11 2018. 17:50 IST