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Croatia files extradition request in Austria for former prime minister

Three days after Austrian police arrested former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on an international warrant, Croatian authorities froze his assets and asked Austria to extradite him to face corruption charges.

Ivo Sanader

Sanader was prime minister from 2003 to 2009

Croatian authorities said Monday they had frozen the assets of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, the same day they formally requested Austria extradite Sanader on corruption charges.

Croatian Justice Ministry spokeswoman Vesna Dovranic said all the necessary documents had been sent to Austrian authorities, as Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor met with her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann in Vienna.

State prosecutor Mladen Bajic also told parliament that all of Sanader's assets had also been frozen, including all assets that police discovered during months of investigation. The freeze applied to "his property and that of his immediate and extended family."

Sanader, 57, left Croatia last week shortly before the Croatian parliament on Thursday voted to strip him of his immunity from being prosecuted as a lawmaker.

Sanader walks into courtroom

A judge ordered Sanader be held for two weeks pending the extradition request

Unspecified corruption charges

Croatia then issued an international warrant for his arrest, and Austrian officials detained him near the western city of Salzburg on Friday.

Sanader's attorney said he was not fleeing the country, but rather going on a scheduled business trip, and that he wished to return to Croatia to "clarify all the issues, because he is not guilty."

The arrest warrant said Sanader is wanted by the national anti-graft bureau for "associating to commit a criminal act and abuse of power." Further details of the charges have not been released, but Croatian media speculate he will be accused of funneling millions of dollars from state-owned enterprises to party coffers and private accounts.

An Austrian judge ruled on Saturday that Sanader be held for two weeks pending his extradition.

Sanader was prime minister of Croatia from 2003 until his resignation in 2009. During his tenure he managed to steer his Croatian Democratic Union away from nationalist ideology toward a more mainstream European conservative platform.

Author: Andrew Bowen (dpa, AFP, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner

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