[JURIST] A Croatian court sentenced former prime minister Ivo Sanader [JURIST news archive] to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for corruption and war profiteering. Judge Ivan Turudic found Sanader guilty [AFP report] beyond a reasonable doubt and also ordered the former PM to pay a fine of €611,000 to Croatia. Sanader was charged with taking €10 million (USD $12.7 million) in bribes from the Hungarian energy company, MOL [corporate website], and for profiting from Croatia’s war against the Serbs from 1991-1995. During the time these allegations took place, Sanader was serving as the deputy foreign minister for Croatia. Prosecutes sought the maximum 15-year sentence for the charges against Sanader, who denied all the allegations against him, criticizing charges as politically motivated. This judgment makes Sanader the highest ranking official to be convicted of corruption charges since the country gained independence in 1991.
In September, Croatian prosecutors announced that they charged Sanader [JURIST report] with embezzlement relating to a real estate deal that took place during his time in office. Sanader was accused of using government funds to purchase a building in the capital city of Zagreb at an inflated price and stealing the surplus. Sanader and three associates, including former Farming Minister Petar Cobankovic, allegedly embezzled the funds in excess of the state-owned building’s market value, with Sanader himself pocketing approximately €2.3 million (USD $2.8 million). Croatia is close to achieving membership in the EU, and Kosor hopes Sanader’s trial will help ease pressure from Brussels for Croatia to sort out corruption and speed investigations. Sanader’s trial is the first criminal proceeding prompted by EU pressure for Croatia to crack down on corruption. The trial was postponed [JURIST report] in October 2011 for health reasons. Sanader pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] last November.