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Europe

Former Croatian leader arrested in Austria after warrant issued

Croatian authorities confirmed Friday that a former prime minister recently the subject of an international arrest warrant has been detained in Austria. Ivo Sanader was wanted on charges of alleged corruption.

Sanader

Sanader was stripped of his immunity on Thursday

Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader was detained in Austria on Friday shortly after an international warrant was issued for his arrest. Sanader was wanted for "abuse of office and partaking of a joint criminal enterprise," according to the Croatian Interior Ministry.

A spokesman for Austria's federal crime agency told news agency Reuters that Sanader would "go to the Salzburg provincial court and then the authorities will have to decide what will happen with him in the next days or the next weeks.

"Our police tried to find him and we located him on the highway this afternoon," the spokesman added.

The warrant for Sanader, 57, had been issued overnight Thursday to Friday and sent to Interpol.

Sanader drove to neighboring Slovenia on Thursday but his exact whereabouts were unknown until he was discovered in the western Austrian region of Salzburg late Friday. His lawyer, Mato Matic, had said earlier that Sanader had not fled the country, but rather was taking a scheduled business trip.

handcuffs and an EU flag

Croatia has its eye on EU membership and is clamping down on corruption

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic told journalists that Parliament's decision to revoke Sanader's immunity, thus making him eligible for arrest, demonstrated that "the rule of law is being implemented."

Political analysts say Croatia's actions show the nation is taking its bid for EU membership seriously, by making good on its promise to Brussels to crack down on endemic corruption.

"This is certainly good news for our EU talks, but perhaps more important, for the future of our democracy, for the issue of transparency and party financing, which was very low so far," political analyst Davor Gjenero is quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.

The Croatian press have repeatedly linked Sanader with corruption, and one of his close business associates is currently being investigated for misusing public funds. Sanader, who served as prime minister from 2003 until 2009, is Croatia's first prime minister to be probed for corruption.

Author: Sarah Harman, Darren Mara (AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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