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News 10 Jun 14

Croatia to Try Hungarian Oil Boss for Bribery

The chairman of Hungarian energy company MOL, Zsolt Hernadi, will be tried in absentia in Zagreb for allegedly giving a 10 million euro bribe to former Croatian PM Ivo Sanader.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb

Photo by: Modzzak

“The indictment against Hernadi has been confirmed and he will be tried in absentia,” Zagreb county court spokesperson Kresimir Devcic told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

The alleged graft took place in 2008-9, when the Croatian government put its shares of the state oil company INA on the market. MOL bought 22.15 per cent of INA’s shares, thus becoming the biggest stakeholder.

The Croatian Office for Fighting Organised Crime and Corruption, USKOK alleged that the bribe was given to ensure that MOL secured all management rights over INA.

During USKOK’s criminal investigations into Sanader, the Hungarian prosecutors’ office rejected the possibility of interrogating Hernadi in June 2011, explaining that information regarding the acquisition of INA’s shares was vital to Hungary’s national interests.

The crucial evidence was a secret video showing Hernadi and Sander exchanging notes and figures, which was published by the media in November 2011.

Sanader was sentenced to seven and half years in jail for corruption related to the MOL case in December 2012. His appeal at the Croatian supreme court started in March.

The Croatian state attorney’s office put Hernadi on Interpol’s wanted list and issued a European arrest warrant in October 2013, which drew much criticism from Budapest.
Because of these tensions, MOL, which owns almost half of INA, started preparing to sell its shares in November 2013.

Hernadi denies the allegations against him.

His lawyer Ante Mikulicic said that the prosecution had become political but the fact that the Croatian government had struck a bad deal over INA should have “nothing to do with criminal proceedings”.

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