A number of current and former Croatian government officials are to testify in a trial which should establish whether former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader received 10 million euros in bribes and used his authority as PM to secure for Hungary's oil company MOL a dominant position in the leading Croatian oil and gas company INA, according to a decision made by the trial chamber presided over by Ivan Turudic on Thursday.
The court will question current Deputy Prime Ministers Slobodan Uzelac and Bozidar Pankretic as well as former Deputy PM Damir Polancec and former ministers Ivan Suker and Marina Matulovic Dropulic so as to clarify how the government led by Sanader made decisions and whether Sanader exerted pressure on government members.
Matulovic Dropulic, as well as Parliament Speaker Luka Bebic and a former spokesman for the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the government, Ratko Macek, will take the witness stand to testify about how the HDZ Presidency was acquainted with the transfer of management rights in INA to MOL.
Macek and INA supervisory board chairman Davor Stern will be invited to testify also about claims that they lobbied for a strategic partner from Russia instead of MOL for INA.
Justice Minister Drazen Bosnjakovic and Croatian Competition Agency chief Olgica Spevec are also on the list of witnesses to be called by the defence.
Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) leader Josip Friscic is expected to be questioned about allegations that the HDZ's coalition partners knew about the contentious agreement with MOL.
The trial chamber upheld the defence team's proposal to question Ivo Sanader's brother Flavio, who reportedly attended a meeting in Switzerland involving the key witness, businessman Robert Jezic, as well as INA management board member Jozo Petrovic, who allegedly accompanied MOL management board president Zsolt Hernadi at meetings with Sanader.
The trial chamber, however, refused the defence team's motion to question Hernadi as a witness, explaining that Prosecutor Tamara Laptos today explained that if Hernadi were available to the Croatian judiciary, he would be treated as a suspect rather than as a witness in the case.
The prosecutor today reiterated that Hernadi had given graft to Sanader and that the latter abused his powers for his personal gain instead of protecting state interests when he served as Prime Minister.
Sanader's lawyer Cedo Prodanovic said that that during the proceedings, the defence would prove that the former PM had never received any bribe and that he had never talked with Hernadi about it, adding that the entire indictment was based on a false statement made by Jezic.
The attorney said that the defence would prove that agreements with MOL were not detrimental to Croatia, corroborating this claim with documents compiled by Polancec, who had been suspected by the USKOK investigating agency in this case, but was cleared of suspicions during the investigation.
Apart from being charged with taking the EUR 10 million bribe from MOL, Sanader is also accused of taking a HRK 3.6 million commission in the mid-1990s, when he was a deputy foreign minister, for a loan which Austria's Hypo bank gave Croatia.