Former Deputy Prime Minister Slobodan Uzelac testified before the Zagreb County Court on Thursday at the trial of former Prime Minister and former president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Ivo Sanader, stressing that Sanader never exerted pressure on him regarding the vote on amendments to the shareholders' agreement with the Hungarian oil company MOL which took over the majority stock package in the Croatian oil company INA.
Uzelac, who testified as a witness for the defence, started his testimony by explaining the procedure by which the government adopted decisions at its sessions and at inner cabinet sessions.
Unlike the other two ministers from the Sanader government, who were questioned earlier, Damir Polancec and Ivan Suker, Uzelac said that government members did not have to vote in accordance with the prime minister's expectations.
"I remember that I voted differently than other members of the cabinet," Uzelac said, adding however that he voted the same as other ministers on amendments to the shareholders' agreement with MOL by which the Hungarian company assumed a majority stake in INA.
"I made this decision after thinking it through and of course nobody, not even the then prime minister, exerted pressure on me to vote either way," Uzelac said.
Answering to Sanader's question, Uzelac said the sessions also focused on the divestiture the gas business from INA, adding that he also voted 'yes' on that.
Uzelac said that all important issues had been discussed by the inner cabinet as well, adding that arguing was more common there than at the government sessions where comprehensive discussions were never held, except in extraordinary cases.
He added that the inner cabinet had discussed amendments to the agreement with MOL on two occasions, after the presentations held by the then Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec.
The witness said the changes to the agreement with MOL were also discussed at closed parts of the sessions, which were usually chaired by the then deputy president of the Croatian Democratic Union, Jadranka Kosor.
Uzelac said he did not remember if the draft amendments to the agreement with MOL were presented to the then HDZ coalition partners, as claimed by Sanader's defence.
"I don't think that the concrete proposal was presented to the partners, as it had been the case with the budget adoption. However, it is possible that it had happened without my knowledge," Uzelac said.
Sanader is accused of receiving 10 million euros in bribes to enable MOL to have a dominant position in INA and to see to it that INA's loss-making gas business is divested. Sanader is also on trial receiving a HRK 3.6 million commission from the Austrian bank after the bank approved a loan in the amount of 140 million Austrian schillings to the Croatian foreign ministry in the mid-1990s, which is why he has been charged with war profiteering because at the time, Croatia was still in a state of war.