The Hungarian oil company MOL, a co-owner of Croatia's INA, said on Friday nothing secret or illegal occurred during a meeting between its director Zsolt Hernadi and former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in a Zagreb restaurant, a video of which was admitted as evidence in a trial against Sanader for taking a bribe from MOL to give it management rights in INA.
Although MOL is not a party in the proceedings, there is nothing odd or unusual in the fact that the director of the MOL group, the biggest foreign investor in Croatia, and the former Croatian prime minister met in a public restaurant in Zagreb in the autumn of 2009, MOL said in a statement.
It added that Hernadi, as the director of one of the largest energy companies in Central Europe, had met with more than 42 prime ministers over the past 10 years.
The statement said the meeting was not secret, as Hernadi was brought to the restaurant by a professional driver in an INA car, while Sanader was accompanied by police and bodyguards, and their lunch took place in a restaurant where it was clearly said that it had video surveillance.
The conclusion that something secret or illegal took place is as real as a fairy tale, MOL said, dismissing the accusations as unbelievable.
There were no payments or any payment agreement made with any politician before, during or after the signing of the shareholders' agreement on INA, MOL said.
Video footage of the Sanader-Hernadi meeting in a Zagreb restaurant was shown at the Zagreb County Court today at Sanader's trial for receiving a EUR 10 million bribe from MOL.
The mute four-minute video shows Sanader and Hernadi talking and exchanging a slip of paper on which Sanader had written something down. It also shows Sanader removing a battery from his mobile phone.
Defence attorney Jadranka Slokovic said the recording was edited. "The integral recording, as far as we understand, is more than two hours long. This is not the integral recording that shows what really happened in the restaurant," she said.
Slokovic said the recording should be used to check the statement of the prosecution's main witness, Robert Jezic, who told investigators from the Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) that he was present at the start of the meeting. She added he was not seen in the video.
Prosecutor Tamara Laptos said USKOK too was not pleased that the recording was so short, adding that this was the only video recording of the Sanader-Hernadi meeting to have been found in the restaurant.