Big Story 10

Croatia orders detention of MOL's CEO, being tried in absentia

ZAGREB (Reuters) - A Croatian court ordered on Monday the detention of the head of Hungarian energy group MOL, Zsolt Hernadi, who is being tried in Croatia in absentia for allegedly bribing the country’s former prime minister.

Last month, international police organisation Interpol decided to renew an arrest warrant for Hernadi.

Hungary has so far refused to heed the warrant, which was issued several years ago.

Hernadi has been indicted in Croatia for allegedly bribing former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in 2008 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.

The trial of Sanader and Hernadi, who both deny any wrongdoing, began in October.

The detention order announced on Monday was issued by the Zagreb county court, spokesman Kresimir Devcic said.

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

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic during a regional summit in Zagreb on Monday. Both agreed the problems related to INA cast a shadow on otherwise good bilateral relations between the countries.

“It’s like a thorn under the nail. Not a big issue, but affects the mood. We want to take that thorn out,” Orban told a news conference after the meeting.

The two prime ministers agreed the solution should be Croatia buying back INA shares if business cooperation was no longer possible, but there remained the issue of determining a price.

They also said the arrest warrant for Hernadi was a matter for the judicial authorities.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Mark Potter