A Croatian court found the head of Hungarian energy group MOL and Croatia’s former prime minister guilty of graft on Monday, marking the latest development in a nearly decade-long legal battle known as the Ina-MOL affair.
The former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader and Hungarian energy group MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi were found guilty of taking and giving a bribe in the INA-MOL case, for which Sanader was sentenced to six and Hernadi to two years’ imprisonment pending appeal.
Hernadi was convicted of bribing Sanader to make MOL the primary decision-maker in the Croatian energy firm, INA, for €10 million.
MOL is the biggest shareholder in the company. Hernadi was sentenced to two years in prison while Sanader was handed six years, local media reported. The ruling can still be appealed.
Explaining the retrial verdict, Zagreb County Court judge Maja Stampar Stipic 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.
Neither defendant was in the courtroom because Sanader stayed in Remetinec prison and Hernadi is out of reach to the Croatian authorities.
Under today’s verdict, a company owned by Robert Jezic, who testified that half of the bribe to Sanader was paid through him, must repay €5 million to the state.
The retrial in the INA-MOL case was requested by the Constitutional Court, which quashed the first sentence against Sanader. At that time, Hernadi was not accused yet and Hungary dismissed numerous requests that he be questioned, claiming a Hungarian court had acquitted him of the same charges in a private suit.
In the first trial, Sanader was sentenced to eight and a half years’ imprisonment. Aside from the MOL bribe, he also stood trial for war profiteering, i.e. for taking a commission from the Hypo bank which gave Croatia a loan during the Homeland War. He was sentenced on that charge, during a retrial, to two and a half years’ imprisonment but the time he spent in custody was counted against the sentence so he did not go to prison.
He did end up in prison in April this year when the Supreme Court raised his sentence in the Planinska corruption case. He is still on trial in the Fimi Media corruption case in which he was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, but the sentence has been quashed by the Supreme Court.
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