A Croatian court on Friday sentenced former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to eight years in jail for siphoning millions of euros from public funds in a long-running corruption case.
Sanader, who led Croatia into NATO during his 2003-2009 spell in office, organised a plot with other officials to “acquire significant financial gain” for himself and to finance their HDZ party, which was also accused in the case, the Zagreb court ruled.
Sanader directed embezzlement involving illegal donations and fictitious deals involving state-run firms, according to the verdict.
The former prime minister, currently serving a prison sentence for another corruption case, will also be required to pay 15.8 million kunas (two million euros, $2.5 million) once the verdict becomes final.
The conservative HDZ, which is still in power, was “responsible” for the crime and must pay some two million euros to the state budget, judge Irena Kvaternik said.
Of three other HDZ officials on trial, two were convicted and jailed and the other was acquitted. The party said in a statement it rejected “any collective responsibility” and said it would appeal the ruling.
Sanader was first sentenced to nine years in jail for this case in 2014, in what was the first trial of its kind against a Croatian political party. But the top court scrapped the ruling citing violations of criminal proceedings.
During the retrial all the defendants pleaded not guilty. Since 2019 Sanader has been serving a six-year sentence for a separate corruption conviction and faces a slew of other allegations. The 67-year-old did not attend Friday’s hearing as he is recovering from surgery.