(Adds quote, MOL statement and background)
ZAGREB, Dec 30 (Reuters) - A Croatian court ruled on Monday that the head of Hungarian energy group MOL and Croatia’s former prime minister were guilty in a corruption case, opening a new chapter in a legal saga that has been dragging on for almost a decade.
MOL’s chief executive and chairman Zsolt Hernadi was found guilty of bribing former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to allow MOL become the key decision-maker in Croatian energy firm , in which MOL is the biggest but not the majority shareholder.
The two of them received two and six years in prison, respectively, the N1 television reported. The ruling is not final and can be appealed. MOL owns close to 50% of INA while Zagreb owns some 45%.
Court President Ivan Turudic said: “There is an active European arrest warrant for Hernadi and Hungary should act accordingly.”
Hernadi and Sanader have denied any wrongdoing and were absent.
MOL said in a statement that it was disappointed with the verdict.
“The company is disappointed as the existing decisions of the Hungarian authorities and those of the United Nations Tribunal in Geneva concluded that there was no wrongdoing by any MOL Group officer,” it said, adding that it would use all measures as defence “against any allegations of illegal practices.”
Hungary has refused to heed an international Interpol arrest warrant for Hernadi.
Reporting by Maja Zuvela and Krisztina Than, editing by Louise Heavens