(AP) A court on Tuesday convicted former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of graft and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Sanader, 59, who served as prime minister from 2004 to 2009, is the highest ranking former government official to ever be tried for corruption in Croatia, which has pledged to root out graft as it becomes a European Union member in July 2013.
Judges found Sanader guilty of accepting a 10 million ($13 million) bribe from Hungarian oil company MOL in return for securing it controlling rights in Croatia's state oil company INA, and receiving 545,000 ($695,000) in kickbacks for a lucrative credit deal with Hypo Alpe Adria Group that gave the Austrian bank a leading position on the Croatian market.
Sanader appeared emotionless as he sat in the courtroom as the verdict was read.
Did you understand the verdict? Ivan Turdic, the head of a three-judge panel, asked. You have been declared guilty on both counts of the indictment. He added that nothing outside this court influenced the verdict which was brought based on the evidence presented in the court.
Sanader, who abruptly resigned as premier on July 1, 2009, maintained his innocence during the one-year trial. He alleged the charges against him were politically motivated and designed to keep him from returning to high office.
He was detained in Austria in December 2010, after Croatian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for him as he allegedly tried to flee from there to the United States.
Associated Press writers Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.