Former prime minister and former leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ivo Sanader, was found guilty on counts of war profiteering on Monday in a re-trial in the so-called Hypo Affair, and sentenced to two and a half years in jail, pending appeal.
Zagreb County Court judge Jasna Galesic said Sanader must return 3.6 million kuna (€500,000) of kickback into the state budget.
Sanader, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2009, was charged with taking a bribe while serving as deputy foreign minister in the 1990s in a deal which saw Austria's Hypo bank issue a loan to the Croatian government to buy properties abroad to serve as country's embassies. At the time, Croatia was going through a war, so Sanader was also charged of war profiteering.
After the verdict on Monday, Sanader said he was not a war profiteer. The prosecution said claimed in its closing argument that war profiteering had been proved, and that Sanader had been downplaying his role.
Sanader was already sentenced in this case, when he was also sentenced for taking a bribe from executive of Hungary's oil company MOL, Zsolt Hernadi, in exchange of handing over the management rights at Croatia's oil company INA. However, the Constitutional Court in 2015 quashed the ruling in the Hypo Affair, and requested a re-trial.
The re-trial for the MOL-INA affair is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
The rescinded sentence in the Hypo Affair was the first sentence ever for war profiteering delivered after the Constitutional Court had ruled that there was no statute of limitations for that crime.
In a separate trial in which Sanader was charged with influencing state-owned power board HEP to enable a private-owned oil refining company Dioki to get a 15 million kuna (€2 million) loan and deliver electricity supply below market prices, both Sanader and Dioki CEO Robert Jezic were acquitted later on Monday.