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news 20 Sep 13

Croatian Ex-PM Faces New Corruption Charge

A sixth corruption indictment has been filed against former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who is already serving a ten-year jail sentence for graft.

Boris Pavelic

The new indictment charges Sanader with damaging the state electricity firm, HEP, to the tune of 650 million kuna (about 90 million euro).

The indictment says that while he was Prime Minister, Sanader forced the then HEP chief, Ivan Mravak, to sell electricity to two aluminium producing firms, TLM in Sibenik, Croatia, and Aluminij in Mostar, Bosnia, at a cheaper price than the commercial rate.

Mravak has confessed guilt already and will be the key witness for the prosecution. He is already serving a prison sentence for another crime, illegally giving HEP money to his, and Sanader's, party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ.

Prosecutors filed the indictment to the County Court in Zagreb, which yet has to confirm if it is valid.

Sanader denies the charges, claiming the decision to sell cheaper electricity was a unanimous decision of the government that he led.

Sanader claims that all previous Croatian governments did the same, because neither TLM nor Aluminij could survive economically without cheaper electricity.

A Zagreb court on Thursday confirmed a fifth energy-related indictment against Sanader. This charges him with forcing HEP to supply cheap electricity to Dioki, a chemical firm owned by his friend, Robert Jezic.

This indictment claims that Dioki illegally earned about 250,000 euro through the corrupt deal, while HEP lost 500,000 euro.

That indictment was filed to the court in May. A date for the trial of that fifth indictment could be set in a month or two.

Sanader was jailed for ten years for corruption in November 2012. He was convicted of taking half a million euro in bribes from Austria's Hypo bank in 1994 in order to allow it to enter the Croatian financial market.

He was also found guilty of taking 10 million euro in bribes from the Hungarian oil company MOL, in order to give MOL a dominant position in the Croatian oil company, INA.

In June, Sanader's defence team filed an appeal to Croatia's Supreme Court againts the convictions.

The ex-premier is also currently on trial in two other cases - one of which, known as  the "Fimi media case", is the biggest case in Croatian judicial history.

Sanader, his former political party, the HDZ, and seven other people are charged with siphoning off public money for the party through a marketing agency, Fimi Media.

The second ongoing trial is the so-called "Planinska case", named after the building in Zagreb's Planinska street, which was owned by Sanader’s friend and fellow MP, Stjepan Fiolic, and sold to the government for 80 million kuna (10 million euro).

The prosecution maintains that Sanader persuaded members of his government to vote for the sale at what is claimed to have been an inflated price.

Prosecutors claim the price was much higher than the building’s true value, and that the state lost the sum of 26 million kuna (3 million euro), part of which Sanader took for himself.

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