November 17, 2018 / 11:06 PM / a month ago

Interpol renews arrest warrant for MOL's CEO, Croatia says

ZAGREB (Reuters) - International police organization Interpol has decided to renew an arrest warrant for the head of Hungarian energy group MOL issued by Croatia, Croatian police said, while MOL on Sunday called the move surprising.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Hungarian oil and gas group MOL at the company's refinery in Szazhalombatta, Hungary March 22,2016 REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh/File Photo

MOL Chief Executive Zsolt Hernadi has been indicted in Croatia for allegedly bribing former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to allow MOL to become the key decision-maker in Croatian energy company INA, in which MOL is the biggest but not the majority shareholder.

Last month Croatia began the trial of Sanader, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2009, and Hernadi in that case. Both deny any wrongdoing. Hernadi is being tried in absentia.

Neither Interpol nor Hernadi could be immediately reached for comment.

Hungary refused to heed the international arrest warrant for Hernadi and two years ago Interpol dropped it, saying Croatia and Hungary, as European Union members, must first handle the case within the bloc.

Croatian police said in a statement that Interpol’s executive committee had on Saturday reversed its previous decision after the European Court of Justice upheld Croatia’s request that the warrant be honored.

MOL said Interpol’s decision was surprising as two years ago an international body for commercial arbitration ruled that evidence presented by Croatia was insufficient to prove that certain contracts made in 2009 between the Croatian government and MOL had been the result of corrupt activities.

“The decision also ignores the Hungarian court decision from August this year refusing to implement Croatia’s arrest warrant on the basis that Hernadi could never have a fair trial in Croatia,” MOL said.

Sanader was sentenced to 8-1/2 years in prison in 2014 for taking a bribe from MOL, but Croatia’s Constitutional Court in 2015 ordered a retrial, citing procedural errors.

MOL owns close to 50 percent of INA. Zagreb owns some 45 percent. The two sides have been at odds for years over management rights in INA and two years ago the Croatian government announced a plan to buy back INA shares owned by MOL.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Dale Hudson

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