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Ex-Croatian prime minister pleads 'not guilty' in corruption trial

Croatia's former prime minister has denied accepting bribes from a Hungarian oil company as his corruption trial resumed in Zagreb. Sanader already stands accused of receiving bribes from an Austrian bank.

Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (C) during his trial on corruption charges

Sanader says the charges stem from a political vendetta

Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader pleaded not guilty to further corruption charges on Thursday as his trial continued in the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

Sanadar said he denied "categorically and with indignation" accepting a bribe worth 10 million euros ($13.63 million) from the Hungarian oil company MOL. The latest charges were added to an existing corruption case against the 58-year-old which began last week.

The former premier already stood accused of abuse of power, war profiteering and taking some 482,000 euros in bribes from Austrian firm Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA) in the 1990s when he was deputy foreign minister. Under Judge Ivan Turudic both indictments will now be tried simultaneously.

Croatian prosecutors also requested Thursday that the MOL chairman accused of paying the bribes to Sanader, Zsolt Hernadi, face questioning in Hungary, where he currently resides.

Fighting corruption

The trial against Sanader, who led the government from 2003 to 2009, is the first criminal case against an ex-prime minister since the former Yugoslav republic proclaimed independence in 1991.

Croatia has sought to crack down on corruption in recent years in a bid to adhere to demands from the European Union. If it delivers on its promise to Brussels, Croatia hopes to be accepted into the bloc as early as 2013.

Sanader was detained in Austria last December, shortly after his immunity was revoked and an international warrant was issued for his arrest. He was latest extradited to Croatia for his trial.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AP, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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