The trial of former prime minister and former leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ivo Sanader, on charges of siphoning money from state institutions and companies via the private-owned Fimi Media marketing company, was adjourned until September 11 on Tuesday.
Sanader, who was the country's prime minister from 2003 to 2009, could not start presenting his defence before the Zagreb County Court, as his co-defendant, Fimi Media owner Nevenka Jurak, was declared unfit to stand trial.
Based on an opinion of medical expert Ivica Mazuranic, the court decided that Jurak could not attend the hearing due to an emergency surgical procedure.
This was Sanader's third attempt to present his defence.
Apart from Sanader, also on trial in the Fimi Media case are the former HDZ treasurer Mladen Barisic, Fimi Media owner Nevenka Jurak, former HDZ chief accountant Branka Pavosevic, and former HDZ and government spokesman Ratko Macek.
At the start of the retrial, ordered by the Supreme Court, the defendants refuted the charges of money siphoning via the Fimi Media advertising agency.
In the original trial which ended in March 2014, Sanader was convicted to nine years in prison and was ordered to return €2 million of illegally acquired funds, while HDZ was fined 5 million kuna (€675,000) and ordered to return 24 million kuna (€3.2 million) of illegally gained profits. Other co-defendantw also received prison sentences, except Macek who received a suspended sentence.
However, the verdict was rescinded by the Supreme Court in October 2015, which ordered a retrial.
Sanader and his co-defendants are charged with siphoning about 70 million kuna (€9.4 million) from state institutions and companies through the Fimi Media marketing agency into the HDZ's slush fund.
While Sanader and former government spokesman Ratko Macek insist that they are victims of political persecution, the other defendants - former customs chief and HDZ treasurer Barisic, Fimi Media owner Nevenka Jurak, and the former HDZ chief accountant Pavosevic - had all pleaded guilty at the beginning of the first trial.