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Former Croatia PM gets 10 years for corruption

Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has been given a 10-year prison sentence for corruption charges. He becomes the highest-ranking official in Croatia to be sentenced for graft.

Former ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party president and ex-prime minister Ivo Sanader looks on, next to other accused, at the beginning of a corruption trial against him and his opposition HDZ party in connection with a corruption scandal that allegedly saw them siphon millions of euros of public funds, on April 16, 2012 in Zagreb. The former prime minister is already being tried in connection with two other major corruption affairs. The scandal-plagued HDZ, ousted from power by a centre-left coalition in December's elections, has been trying to paint him as a lone black sheep, but it now also faces charges.

Früherer kroatische Ministerpräsident Ivo Sanader

The verdict for Sanader came on Tuesday in a courtroom in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. He was found guilty of accepting a 10-million-euro ($12.8 million) bribe from the Hungarian energy group MOL in 2008 and a 545,000-euro bribe from an Austrian bank in 1995. Sanader was prime minister of Croatia from 2004 to 2009. He resigned in the middle of his second term.

In return for the bribes, MOL was given controlling rights in the privatization of Croatia's state oil company, and the bank was given help in brokering a loan.

Sanader said he was not guilty and had maintained that the charges against him were politically motivated.

Croatia is scheduled to join the European Union in 2013. Efforts to crack down on corruption are being carefully monitored by EU observers in the run-up to Croatia's accession.

mz/kms (dpa, AP, Reuters)