A video surveillance recording of a meeting between former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi has been admitted as evidence in the trial of Sanader, who is charged with taking 10 million euros in bribes from the Hungarian oil company MOL to ensure it a dominant position in Croatia's INA.
The decision to admit the video recording as evidence was made by the Trial Chamber presided over by Judge Ivan Turudic at a hearing before the Zagreb County Court on Friday despite strong opposition from the Sanader defence who insisted that the recording was made illegally and could not be used in evidence.
The four-minute-long "mute" recording, which was played in the courtroom, shows Sanader and Hernadi talking to each other in a Zagreb restaurant. During their conversation, the two exchanged a slip of paper on which Sanader had written something down previously, and Sanader removed a battery from his mobile phone.
Dismissing the claims by the defence, Judge Turudic said that the recording was not obtained in violation of the Constitution, the law or international law. "An examination of the recording has found that it was made in a public place where it was clearly indicated that it was under video surveillance," he said, concurring with the defence that it was unacceptable that the recording had been leaked to the media before it had reached the court.
Defence attorney Jadranka Slokovic said that 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 that the recording should be used to check the statement of the prosecution's main witness, Robert Jezic, who had told investigators from the Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) that he had been present at the start of the meeting. The defence attorney said that he was not seen in the video.
Prosecutor Tamara Laptos said that 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.
Having admitted the video recording as evidence, the court dismissed a defence motion to question the restaurant owner as to why the video surveillance recording had not been destroyed, which the defence claims should have been done.
The trial continued with a hearing of witness Robert Tafra, who testified about the allegation that Sanader, in his capacity as Deputy Foreign Minister, had received a commission of 3.6 million kuna from Austria's Hypo bank to facilitate a loan to Croatia for the purchase of buildings for Croatian diplomatic missions.
Tafra said that he had introduced Sanader to Eugen Laxa, a Croatian emigrant in whose name Hypo bank paid millions for the commission in 1995. The payment slips, allegedly received by Sanader, also contained Laxa's name. The prosecution says that a graphology expert has found that the signature is not that of Laxa, who has died in the meantime.
Tafra said he had met Laxa while preparing a book on freemasonry, since Laxa had been a member of a London Masonic Lodge. He said that Laxa had been knowledgeable about history and that he had also been an honorary chairman of the Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
Tafra said he had talked to his friends in Split about Laxa and that Sanader had said that he would like to meet him. Tafra introduced Sanader to Laxa at the Hotel International in Zagreb, saying that the two had exchanged telephone numbers then. Tafra said that Sanader later told him that Laxa was "a very interesting person".
Sanader objected to the witness's testimony, saying that Tafra lied about their meetings and that he never introduced him to Laxa.