Sunday, 14 November 2021

Supreme Court Acquits Former HDZ PM Ivo Sanader in HEP-Dioki Affair

November the 14th, 2021 - Former HDZ PM Ivo Sanader is known for having been accused of being involved in multiple scandals and affairs, and his long lasting legal procedures are just as well known to the Croatian public. The Supreme Court, however, has just acquitted him in one affair.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Supreme Court has partially reversed and partially upheld the acquittal of the Zagreb County Court in the case of former HDZ PM Ivo Sanader in the well known HEP-Dioki case along with Ivan Mravko and Robert Jezic. Part of it has become statute-barred (no longer legally enforceable as a prescribed period of limitation has lapsed), and the acquittal of Sanader has been confirmed for the second part of the indictment, the media has reported.

"On the appeal of the State Attorney, ex officio, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia has reversed the acquittal of the Zagreb County Court and dismissed the charge of one criminal offense of inciting abuse of office against two defendants, and upheld the first-instance acquittal for the second offense of incitement to the abuse of office and authority against the same two defendants. The first-instance verdict acquitted the two defendants of the charges of committing the two criminal offenses of inciting abuse of office and authority,'' the Supreme Court said in a statement recently.

Since back in 2012, the prosecution has charged former HDZ PM Ivo Sanader with inciting former HEP CEO Ivan Mravko to pay out a fifteen million kuna loan to Robert Jezic's company (Dioki) and sell electricity below market prices, damaging the state budget by nineteen million kuna.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Milanović: You Won’t Hear Me Say That HDZ Is a Criminal Organisation

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday that he did not consider today's HDZ to be a criminal organisation due to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Fimi Media case, but he noted that PM Andrej Plenković's statement, in which he linked the ruling with Milanović's rhetoric, was "silly".

"I think that it is irresponsible to link the ruling, whereby the Supreme Court actually upheld a lower court's ruling, with my statements. The idea that my rhetoric had influence on the Supreme Court's decision is silly," he told reporters during a visit to Samobor, a town west of Zagreb, where he attended a ceremony marking the town's day.

The Supreme Court last Wednesday partly upheld the verdict following the retrial in the Fimi Media corruption case, under which the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was fined HRK 3.5 million while the former PM and HDZ chief Ivo Sanader had his prison sentence cut from eight to seven years.

Sanader and his co-defendants were charged with siphoning around HRK 70 million (€9.3 million) from state-owned companies and institutions through the Fimi Media marketing agency into the HDZ's slush funds from 2004 to 2009.

Commenting on Plenković's statement of Friday, Milanović said that he had indeed criticised the Supreme Court but that Plenković had confused the cause with the consequence.

Plenković on Friday said, among other things, that he did not know if some judges worked under the pressure of Milanović's rhetoric.

"And then the Supreme Court does what? It takes revenge on the HDZ by listening to me, who had criticised it. I think such statements are for the Logic Olympiad," Milanović said.

He noted that he did not consider Plenković responsible for crime in the HDZ and did not claim that today's HDZ was a criminal organisation.

"You won't hear me say that the HDZ is a criminal organisation. Not all people there are clean today, but today's HDZ has that, too, in its past. Just as the SDP has in its past the fact that it is the successor to the Communist Party," he said, adding that those things should be left to the past and that new people were emerging and answering to voters.

He said that he had been the first in the country to raise the issue of criminal liability of legal entities.

"There was a law from 2003 which envisaged for the first time that kind of legal responsibility. I raised that issue in the parliament, I was not Prime Minister at the time, and, to my surprise, the Public State Attorney launched the procedure and the (Fimi Media) ruling is a result of that. So in a way, I am responsible for the ruling," he said.

Protesters should not rally outside office-holders' homes

Asked to comment on protests held outside the homes of members of the national coronavirus management team, Milanović said that protesters should not do that.

"They are free to disagree with what those people do, but to protest now, after a year and half? They could have done it earlier if they had objections, and they should especially not be doing it outside (COVID-19 response team's members') homes because that way they disturb their neighbours," Milanović said, calling on the protesters to end the protests.

Speaking about the prosecution of crimes committed in the 1991-95 Homeland War, Milanović said that the Croatian judiciary had done its best, notably with regard to the prosecution of members of the aggressor forces.

"Evidently some things are no longer possible due to the passage of time. I am sure the Croatian judiciary does not have an agenda to help the enemy. There are real limitations regarding time, place and facts. I am not satisfied, but on the other hand, a lot has been done so I can say that I am also satisfied," he said.

We have no relations with Belgrade and Serbia

As for people gone missing in the war, Milanović said that Belgrade was familiar with the destiny of close to 2,000 missing persons.

"We will insist on that, we won't let the matter rest just like that," he said, adding that Croatia currently has no relations with Belgrade.

"Relations with all the others are good or very good, they are not good only with Belgrade and those currently in power there," he said.

Milanović announced that he would attend this year's commemoration of the fall of the eastern city of Vukovar.

"This year is different, last year the way things were organised was wrong," he said.

He welcomed the government's decision to limit fuel prices but noted that it would cost.

"The government has the instruments, naturally all of that costs, and one should be aware that producers and distributors who have fixed costs will have to be compensated somehow," he said, estimating that prices of energy products should go down in a few months.

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Friday, 11 June 2021

Supreme Court to Deliver Ruling in Fimi Media Case Within the Next Month

ZAGREB, 11 June 2021- The open hearing in the Fimi Media corruption case before the Supreme Court ended on Friday with the defence and prosecution presenting their appeals against a non-final ruling handed down by Zagreb County Court, and the Supreme Court ruling is expected within the next month.

The defence attorneys representing Ivo Sanader, a former prime minister and one time leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Jadranka Sloković and Čedo Prodanović, reiterated that in delivering its ruling Zagreb County Court did not take account of the Supreme Court's opinion from 2015 when the highest court in the country quashed the non-final verdict handed down in 2013, stating that Sanader was denied his right to cross-examination as his co-defendants refused to answer his questions.

In November 2020, Sanader was found guilty pending appeal and sentenced to eight years in prison for siphoning money from state-owned companies and institutions. Also convicted in a retrial before Zagreb County Court were former HDZ treasurer Mladen Barisic and accountant Branka Pavosevic while the party, in whose slush fund some of the siphoned money had allegedly ended up, was found "responsible."

Sanader waiting in jail for several cases to be resolved

One month after the non-final ruling in the Fimi Media case ,the Constitutional Court rejected a complaint by Sanader in the Planinska Street case, in which he has been convicted and is currently serving a six-year prison term. With that ruling by the highest court in the country, Sanader has exhausted all legal means to appeal against decisions before the national courts.

Sanader was convicted of taking a commission of HRK 17.5 million after the state bought a building in Planinska Street in Zagreb that was owned by former HDZ parliamentarian Stjepan Fiolić. Zagreb County Court delivered the conviction in 2017 and the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in April 2019.

In the meantime Sanader is waiting for a decision by the Supreme Court after he was sentenced to six years imprisonment for taking a bribe from the Hungarian energy group MOL. If the sentence is upheld, Sanader will have to pay back €5 million into the state budget.

For more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated news page.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Constitutional Court Rejects Sanader's Claim in Planinska Case

ZAGREB, Dec 13, 2020 - The Constitutional Court rejected the lawsuit by former prime minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Ivo Sanader in the Planinska case, due to which he is serving a six-year prison sentence.

With this decision all legal means of challenging the verdict before national courts have been exhausted.

The verdict in the Planinska case, in which Sanader was charged with receiving a commission of HRK 17.5 million after the state bought a building in Zagreb's Planinska Street from the company of former HDZ MP and butchers chain owner Stjepan Fiolic during his term as prime minister, was handed down by Zagreb County Court in 2017 and upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2019.

The Supreme Court increased Sanader's sentence to six years in prison, after which the former prime minister was sent to Zagreb's Remetinec jail.

In the trial, Fiolic admitted that he brought HRK 10 million and another one million euros (approx. HRK 17.5 million in total) to Sanader's home in a cardboard box. The property of Fiolic's company was purchased by the regional development ministry, led by former minister Petar Cobankovic, who made a plea bargain with the prosecution before trail and was sentenced to one in year in prison. He did not go to prison but did community service.

Apart from them, the trial chamber in this case also convicted Mladen Mlinarevic, for whom it established that he inflated the value of the building in Zagreb's Planinska Street owned by Fiolic before it was purchased by Cobankovic's ministry.

In the rejected constitutional complaint, Sanader repeated that he was a victim of political persecution and that Fiolic and Cobankovic had reached agreements with the prosecution and received lighter sentences. In the complaint, Sanader called Cobankovic a "false witness" who spoke in court as instructed by the prosecution.

He also claimed that the equality of arms principle had been violated as several criminal proceedings had been conducted against him at the same time. In addition to the constitutional complaint, he also filed a motion to delay enforcement procedures and to postpone his imprisonment.

In the meantime, in November, Sanader was sentenced in a retrial to eight years in prison and ordered to return HRK 16 million in the Fimi Media case, after the non-final verdict from 2013 was quashed by the Supreme Court.

Sanader is also waiting for the Supreme Court's decisions on several more non-final verdicts. He has been sentenced pending appeal to six years for taking a bribe from the Hungarian energy group MOL, and MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi was sentenced to two years in prison. If the verdict becomes final, Sanader will have to return €5 million to the state.

He has also been sentenced pending appeal for taking a kickback from the Austrian Hypo bank, and he has been acquitted pending appeal for the sale of electricity from the HEP provider to a company owned by Rober Jezic at prices below the market price.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Court Finds Sanader, Barisic and Pavosevic Guilty, HDZ Responsible

ZAGREB, November 13, 2020 - Former prime minister and former HDZ party leader Ivo Sanader was found guilty on Friday pending appeal and sentenced to eight years in prison for siphoning money from state-owned companies and institutions in the Fimi Media case.

Also convicted in a retrial before Zagreb County Court were former HDZ treasurer Mladen Barisic and accountant Branka Pavosevic while the party, into whose slush fund some of the siphoned money had allegedly ended up, was found "responsible".

Details of the case as well as the sentences of all the indictees will be known after the trial chamber reads out and explains the verdict.

Neither Sanader nor his co-defendants on Friday attended the reading of the verdict in the case in which they were charged with siphoning around HRK 70 million (€9.3 million) from state-owned companies and institutions through the Fimi Media marketing agency. The ten-year case has become a byword for political corruption in Croatia.

Sanader was not present because he is undergoing physical rehabilitation in a spa following surgery and due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The retrial in the case started in 2016, a year after the Supreme Court quashed a sentencing verdict handed down in 2013 by Judge Ivana Krsul.

While USKOK anti-corruption investigators believe that they have proven the responsibility of Sanader, his former party and his co-defendants for corruption also in the retrial, their defence claims there is no evidence of their guilt.

The HDZ's lawyers said the party should be held accountable for a misdemeanor, while Sanader's defence reiterated that the incrimination was based solely on the "contradictory, inconsistent and illogical" testimony of former HDZ treasurer Barisic.

Besides Sanader, Barisic, Pavosevic and the HDZ, also indicted in this case was former government and HDZ spokesman Ratko Macek. Another defendant, Fimi Media owner Nevenka Jurak, died during the retrial.

In the first trial, Sanader was sentenced to nine years and ordered to return over HRK 15 million in illegal gains, while the HDZ was ordered to return more than HRK 24 million and fined HRK 5 million.

In the first trial, Barisic, Pavosevic and Jurak were given milder prison sentences and ordered to return the money. Unlike then, in the retrial they pleaded not guilty. Macek and Sanader were the only ones denying the charges from the start. In the first trial, Macek was given a suspended sentence.

Sanader has been in prison since 2019, serving a sentence in the Planinska corruption case. In the meantime, he has been sentenced pending appeal for taking a bribe from the Hungarian energy group MOL and, in 2018, for taking a kickback from the Austrian Hypo bank. He has been acquitted pending appeal for the sale of electricity from the HEP provider at cheaper prices.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Ex-HDZ Treasurer Says He Did Everything According to Sanader's Instructions

ZAGREB, March 10, 2020 - Presenting his defence in the Fimi Media trial on Tuesday, a former customs administration director and former treasurer of the Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ), Mladen Barišić claimed that everything he did was according to the party leader Ivo Sanader's instructions.

Barišić was presenting his defence in the trial against him for his role in the Fimi Media scandal in which money was siphoned from state institutions through the Fimi Media marketing agency.

"Everything I did as the party's treasurer was done in accordance and agreement with the party's leader. Ivo Sanader was authoritarian and did not allow any self-will and I did what I was instructed to do. I executed the tasks assigned obediently, and believed that I was working for the benefit of the party," Barišić said and added that all financial decisions could not be made by anyone but Sanader.

Barišić added that on one occasion in the presence of former HDZ officials Luka Bebić, Jadranka Kosor and Ivan Jarnjak, Sanader referred to Barišić as "his special officer and right hand man." The defendant told Zagreb County Court that he was surprised that certain individuals in the HDZ "who received extra money, for instance, some women who received allowances for clothing," were now accusing him.

The retrial of the case related to the siphoning of about 70 million kuna (almost €10 million) from state institutions and companies through Fimi Media, which came to be known as a byword for corruption in Croatian politics, was formally commented at the end of January.

From the very beginning Sanader has rejected all the accusations and has claimed that he is the victim of a trumped up political process that his successor Jadranka Kosor and the then chief state prosecutor, Mladen Bajić, launched against him.

Other defendants in addition to Barišić and who are also standing trial in this case, apart from Sanader, who was previously convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison, and the HDZ which was fined HRK 5 million, are former party chief accountant Branka Pavošević, and former party and government spokesman in Sanader's cabinet, Ratko Maček.

The owner of the Fimi Media agency, Nevenka Jurak, who was also a defendant in this case, passed away in November 2019 and the charges against her were suspended.

More news about the Sanader case can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Sanader Once Again Pleads Not Guilty in Fimi Media Corruption Trial

ZAGREB, February 11, 2020 - The former prime minister and leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, Ivo Sanader, on Tuesday once again pleaded not guilty in a retrial in the Fimi Media corruption case, in which he, the HDZ and former party leaders stand accused of siphoning money from state institutions and companies between 2003 and 2009 .

"I am not guilty. I very resolutely reject all the allegations in the indictment which is based on fabrications," Sanader said at Zagreb County Court.

The case was launched ten years ago. Sanader is currently serving a six-year sentence for one of a series of scandals he was involved in.

The retrial for siphoning some 70 million kuna (about €10 million) from state institutions and companies through the Fimi Media marketing agency, a case that has become a synonym for corruption in Croatian politics, was formally launched at the end of January.

All the accused, including the HDZ party and the party's leadership at the time pleaded not guilty of siphoning money into a party slush fund. In the initial trial, which opened in April 2012, Sanader was convicted in 2014, but the Supreme Court overturned the ruling on appeal in 2015.

A retrial which commenced in 2016 was suspended as one of the accused, Nevenka Jurak, who was the owner of the Fimi Media agency, fell ill in July 2018 when Sanader was to have presented his defence. Jurak passed away in the meantime and the trial was suspended.

More news about Ivo Sanader can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Sanader's Government Set Record in Borrowing, Račan's Carried Out Most Reforms

ZAGREB, December 31, 2019 - In the last 20 years Croatia's debt has increased sixfold, HRK 50 billion kuna to nearly 300 billion, the Večernji List daily says in its Tuesday edition, citing figures that show that the HDZ government of Ivo Sanader set the record in borrowing while the most reforms were carried out by the government led by Social Democrat Ivica Račan.

The political rise of Zoran Milanović has refuelled debates about his government having been the most spendthrift. The statistics, however, show a different thing.

The leader in terms of borrowing was the HDZ government led by Ivo Sanader and his successor Jadranka Kosor, during whose four-year term (2008-2011) public debt rose by 95 billion kuna, more than doubling in the two terms, says Večernji List.

Milanović's government increased the debt by around 73 billion kuna, Račan's by around 40 billion and Plenković's by around 15 billion.

Economists, however, warn that adding up public debt is like comparing apples and oranges.

"Macroeconomically, we are talking about different environments. It would be more sensible to judge reforms and their impact on long-term growth," says Željko Lovrinčević of the Institute of Economics.

"The term of the Ivo Sanader government was a period when loans were sought for infrastructure projects that were financed by the Croatian state, and there were both rational and irrational investments," said Lovrinčević.

Milanović's government led the country during the period of a very deep financial crisis, when deficits were a way to maintain the country's financial system and prevent complete chaos.

"It was a period of record-high interest rates, unlike the current situation, with artificially created low interest rates. The two periods are almost incomparable, in terms of both sources of financing and capital prices," said Lovrinčević.

Sanader and Milanović did not have at their disposal EU funds available to the incumbent government, which is macroeconomically the most successful one, if the short term of PM Tihomir Orešković is disregarded, as public debt has been falling as measured by its share in GDP, however, neither Sanader nor Milanović performed well in terms of structural reforms.

"Running the country was most difficult during the term of the Ivica Račan government, it was a heterogeneous coalition that led the country in a transition from a semi-military model of state functioning to a civilian economy. That is when most progress was made in structural reforms," Lovrinčević believes.

Lovrinčević previously compared growth rates in Croatia with rates in other transition countries behind which Croatia lagged by 30%.

Paradoxically, but Croatia lagged the most behind during the term of the first Ivo Sanader government, from 2004 to 2007, when economic growth was 14% lower than in other transition countries, unlike the most successful, Ivica Račan government, during whose term the national economy lagged behind by 2%.

Račan's government raised GDP by around 18% during its term and at the time Croatia's economy grew faster than the economies of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, which from today's perspective looks like science fiction, says Večernji List.

More economic news can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

News Agencies Report about Verdict against Sanader

ZAGREB, December 31, 2019 - Foreign news agencies on Monday carried reports of a non-final verdict against former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader and Hungarian MOL energy group executive Zsolt Hernadi, sentenced for bribery to six and two years in prison respectively, stressing that the Croatian court did not accept conclusions by an independent UN commission.

Earlier on Monday the former Croatian prime minister and the MOL executive director were found guilty of taking and receiving a bribe in the INA-MOL case.

Explaining the retrial verdict, Zagreb County Court judge Maja Štampar Stipić said Sanader had arranged with Hernadi to give MOL controlling rights in its Croatian peer INA in exchange for €10 million. In doing so, Sanader used his position and authority as prime minister to make it seem that it was necessary to divest INA's gas business and change the shareholders' agreement, the judge added.

The Hungarian news agency MTI carried MOL's comment in which the Hungarian company expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict, saying that Hungarian courts as well as the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) established that the law had not been broken in the INA-MOL case.

MOL also claimed that this was not the first unfair trial in Croatia, dismissing the corruption charges and noting that it would continue to defend itself against unfounded accusations.

The Serbian news agency Tanjug, too, carried the comment by MOL, which also recalled that the verdict to Sanader and Hernadi was based on the testimony of only one witness who during the retrial had proved entirely unreliable.

Tanjug also reports that Hernadi continues to enjoy the trust of all MOL Group boards.

The Beta news agency reported that the verdict against the once most powerful Croatian politician and the Hungarian executive was announced in their absence as Hernadi is beyond the reach of Croatian authorities while Sanader stayed in Zagreb's Remetinec prison.

Agence France-Presse quoted prosecutor Tonči Petković as saying that as the highest state official, Sanader had jeopardised Croatia's vital economic interests.

AFP says that Sanader is the highest political official convicted of corruption since Croatia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, but also that the fight against corruption was one of the key factors for Croatia's accession to the EU in 2013.

Reuters quoted Zagreb County Court president Ivan Turudic as saying that a warrant had been issued for Hernadi's arrest and that Hungary should act on it.

The agency recalls that the verdict may be appealed against but also stresses that it is a new chapter in a legal saga that has been going on for more than a decade.

In the initial trial Sanader was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. Apart from being tried for receiving a bribe from Hernadi, he was also tried for war profiteering in the Hypo case, namely for receiving a commission from that bank which granted Croatia a loan at the time of the Homeland War. In a retrial he was convicted to two and a half years for that crime, but the time spent in custody was credited to his sentence so he did not have to return to prison.

However, he was again placed in custody in April after the Supreme Court increased his sentence in the Planinska case so he was again behind bars at the time when the verdict in the INA-MOL case was announced.

The trial against Sanader in the Fimi Media case is still under way. In that case, he was originally sentenced to nine years' in prison pending appeal, but the Supreme Court quashed the verdict.

More news about Ivo Sanader can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Former PM Ivo Sanader Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for INA-MOL Affair

As Index writes on the 30th of December, 2019, former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (HDZ) and Hungarian MOL's main man Zsolt Hernádi have been found guilty of accepting bribes in the INA-MOL case today, for which Ivo Sanader was sentenced to six years in prison, and Hernádi to two years in prison.

Explaining the final verdict, Zagreb County Court Judge Maja Štampar Stipić said that ex PM Ivo Sanader had agreed with Hernádi that he would leave the decisive vote on INA's business to Hungary's MOL for the sum of 10 million euros. In doing so, he used his position and the authority of the Prime Minister to show that it was necessary to separate the gas business and change the inter-share agreement.

The non-binding verdict in the retrial was announced in front of an empty bench for the defendants because Hernádi was unavailable to the Croatian judiciary while Ivo Sanader remained in Zagreb's Remetinec prison.

As he recently underwent surgery, which in the court's view was not necessary, Ivo Sanader was not present at the closing speeches in the case. USKOK (Croatian State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organised Crime and Corruption)  then concluded that Ivo Sanader threatened the state's interests by receiving bribes from co-defendant Hernádi, while their defense, on the other hand, argued that there was no basis for the conviction.

According to the final verdict, Robert Ježić's company, which admitted that Ivo Sanader was paid half of the agreed bribe through them, should pay back five million euros to the Croatian state.

Lawyer Jadranka Sloković: We knew it would turn out like this:

"We're not surprised the whole proceeding went this way. The rights of the defendants and the defense were violated during the proceedings. We'll write an appeal, we knew the outcome much earlier. This is a court failure, almost all witnesses were rejected. The verdict is based on the testimony of a person who said she spent all of the money entirely.

Our October appeal was only submitted to the Supreme Court in November, which largely determined the outcome of the trial. I believe the Supreme Court will have a lot of work to do.

The court claims Sanader could have cancelled the operation, but he has been going through court proceedings for 10 years now, he couldn't postpone it because he would then be charged again with obstruction of the procedure,'' Jadranka Sloković said after the verdict.

"Ivo Sanader's expectations are such that he expects nothing from the Zagreb County Court. He's still in rehab," Sloković said.

"We're pleased with what we've achieved. All that we found in the first trial has now been confirmed. As far as the sentence is concerned, it is too mild and we will appeal it," a statement from USKOK said.

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