Croatia's Supreme Court upheld the 2017 corruption verdict to former Prime Minister and leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Ivo Sanader on Thursday, extending his original sentence from four and a half to six years in prison, sending him to jail.
Defendants handed sentences shorter than five years in prison are allowed to remain free under Croatian law for as long as their right to appeal is exhausted. However, the new extended six-year sentence means that Sanader must report to jail and start serving his sentence immediately.
Foolowing the court's ruling, Sanader, who had served as Croatia's Prime Minister from 2003 to 2009, was picked up by police at his home in Zagreb and taken to jail. But shortly before being taken away, he insisted on his innocence again.
“This is a show trial. I still believe that this is a case of politically motivated persecution. I will continue to fight with all means available to me to prove my innocence. The charges against me make no sense, they are all lies, each and every one of them. I'm ready to (face) anything, and in the end I will prove my innocence,” Sanader told reporters.
In the first instance verdict for the so-called Planinska Affair, Sanader was found guilty for helping a former HDZ MP Stjepan Fiolic and his companies to sell a building in Planinska Street in Zagreb at an inflated price to the Regional Development Ministry in 2009.
According to the sentencing verdict, the government had bought the building for about 15 million kuna more than the property was actually worth, with Sanader earning a 17 million kuna (€2.3 million) kickback in the deal.
Fiolic had admitted to have sold the building using falsified building papers which included an inflated estimate of the property's value, and testified in court that he had handed over 10 million kuna (€1.3 million) and €1 million to Sanader for the deal.
The former Regional Development Minister, Petar Cobankovic, also pleaded guilty and made an out-of-court settlement with prosecutors before the trial started, which saw him get sentenced to one year in prison, which was later converted to community service.
Another co-defendant was construction engineer Mladen Mlinarevic who prosecutors indicted with helping the fraud by inflating the estimated value of the building.
In the first instance verdict, Mlinarevic and Fiolic were convicted to one year in prison each, which was in both cases converted into community service. In addition, Sanader was ordered to pay back the 17 million kuna kickback. The 15 million kuna markup whih the government had paid for when acquiring the building was ordered to be paid back by Sanader, Fiolic, and Fiolic's two companies.
Sanader and Mlinarevic continue to claim innocence to this day. Their lawyers filed an appeal calling for the verdict to be quashed and the case to be re-tried. On the other hand, prosecutors also filed an appeal to the verdict, asking for the prison terms handed to them to be increased.
(€1 = 7.42 kuna)