Croatia jails former PM Sanader for party slush funds

FILE PHOTO: Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader is escorted by police en route to prison, in Zagreb, Croatia, April 4, 20119. REUTERS/Stringer

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader was sentenced on Friday to eight years in prison for creating slush funds for his conservative HDZ party by taking money from public companies via a marketing agency.

Sanader denied corruption charges in the case and is expected to appeal his conviction to a higher court.

It was a retrial of a case for which Sanader had already been jailed for nine years in 2013 but whose verdict was annulled by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

Sanader, 67, was prime minister from 2003 to 2009, when he stepped down without giving an explanation.

In the re-trial, the presiding judge ruled Sanader had organised a group of people for criminal activity and covering up illegal financial deals, state television reported.

His former HDZ party, which is now in power, was fined 3.5 million kuna ($547,071.60) by the court and must also return some 14 million kuna of illegally obtained funds.

Sanader is serving a separate prison term after being convicted of taking a bribe in 2008 while arranging for a building belonging to a party colleague to be sold to a ministry at a price higher than its market value.

He was also convicted of accepting a bribe from Hungary’s oil group MOL in 2008 in exchange for letting it become a dominant shareholder in Croatian energy firm INA and for taking a bribe from Austria’s then-Hypo Alpe Adria Bank in the early 1990s.

Sanader has denied charges in both cases and appealed to higher courts.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Mark Heinrich