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Croatia sentences ex-PM, Hungary energy firm boss for graft

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AFP Zagreb
A Croatian court on Monday sentenced former prime minister Ivo Sanader to six years in jail and the boss of Hungary's MOL energy group to two years for bribery.
Sanader -- already serving time for a separate graft conviction -- and MOL's Zsolt Hernadi were convicted for "receiving and giving a bribe" concerning a 2009 deal after the Hungarian firm purchased shares in local oil and gas group INA, the judge said.
Judge Maja Stampar Stipic said the deal allowed then-PM Sanader to pocket 10 million euros (USD 11 million) in exchange for granting the Hungarian firm control over INA.
MOL, whose main shareholder is the Budapest government, has a 49 percent INA stake, while Zagreb holds a 44 per cent stake.
"As the top state official, Sanader ... jeopardised Croatia's vital economic interests," prosecutor Tonci Petkovic said in his final statement.
Defence attorneys for CEO Hernadi, who was tried in absentia, argued that the prosecutors did not prove an "incriminating tie" between the two defendants.
Both men pleaded not guilty and can appeal the verdict.
The former premier was already found guilty of the charge in 2012, but the country's top court overturned his eight-and-a-half-year jail sentence and called for a re-trial.
Croatia has sought Hernadi's arrest for years, but Hungary has refused to extradite him.
Sanader, conservative prime minister from 2003 to 2009, has faced several other graft cases in which he is suspected of embezzling millions of euros.
In April he was jailed to serve a six-year sentence in another corruption case.
In 2018 he was also sentenced to two and half years for war profiteering, but acquitted of abuse of power charges in another trial.
Sanader is the highest official to be charged with corruption in Croatia since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Tackling corruption was key for the country's successful bid to join the European Union in 2013.

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First Published: Dec 30 2019 | 6:40 PM IST

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