A Croatian court has sentenced former PM Ivo Sanader to eight years in jail for his role in the so-called ‘Fimi Media’ case, while his former party, the Croatian Democratic Union, was also judged ‘responsible’ for the crime.
Ten years after his juridical procedures first started, Zagreb County Court on Friday sentenced former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, also a former leader of the governing Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, to eight years in jail after finding him guilty in a corruption affair. He may appeal the verdict.
Together with other HDZ officials and entrepreneurs, he was charged in a retrial with illegally financing the HDZ with millions of euros drawn from public firms and enterprises.
Former HDZ treasurer Mladen Barisic was sentenced to two years and 10 months in the same case, while HDZ accountant Branka Pavosevic was sentenced to one year and four months. Former government and HDZ spokesman Ratko Macek was acquitted.
The court concluded that Sanader “organised and connected the second indictee Barisic, the fourth indictee Pavosevic and the late [Nevenka] Jurak [Fimi Media owner] who died during the retrial]”, Trial Chamber President Irena Kvaternik said.
According to the court, each member of the group “had a specific role assigned to them by the organiser, the first indictee Sanader, and each member acted exactly on his orders”.
If the verdict becomes final, Sanader will need to return over 15 million kunas, equal to around 2 million euros, and the HDZ, will need to repay 14.6 million kunas, or almost 2 million euros, plus paying a fine of 3.5 million kunas – equal to some 460,000 euros.
The party, into whose slush fund some of the siphoned money had allegedly ended up, was also judged “responsible” for the crime.
The HDZ, which now runs the government, issued a statement on Friday dismissing “any collective responsibility of party members as well as the connection of the current party leadership with the individual actions that are the subject of this procedure”.
The so-called Fimi Media case, the highest-level corruption case ever prosecuted in Croatia, was named after the firm through which the money was allegedly channelled.
In March 2014, Zagreb County Court found Sanader guilty of abuse of office and corruption, along with two other officials from the HDZ, for unlawfully pumping 10.4 million euros of public funds into the Fimi Media company. The verdict that sentenced Sanader to nine years in prison was overturned in 2015.
Sanader was initially arrested in Austria in December 2010, while on the run from the authorities. He was extradited to Croatia in July 2011.
As president of the centre-right HDZ, he was Prime Minister between December 2003 and July 2009, when he suddenly left the position to his deputy, Jadranka Kosor.
Sanader has been in prison since 2019, serving a sentence in another, the Planinska case, named after the building in Zagreb’s Planinska Street which Sanader’s friend and fellow MP Stjepan Fiolic owned and sold to the government for 80 million kunas, or 10 million euros.
The former Prime Minister has appeals pending for two other cases: for taking a bribe from the Hungarian energy company MOL and for taking illegal fees in talks between Austria’s Hypo Bank and the government between late 1994 and March 1995, during the war in Croatia.
He has been acquitted pending appeal for the sale of electricity from the HEP company at cheaper prices.