A Zagreb court has found Zsolt Hernádi, chief executive of Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, and former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader guilty of corruption, Croatian public television reported on Monday.
Hernádi, who was found guilty of bribing Sanader with 10 million euros to obtain a majority stake in Croatian oil firm INA, was sentenced to two years in prison in absentia in a non-binding ruling. The former Croatian PM was handed a six-year prison term.
MOL and Hernádi have steadfastly denied the charges, insisting that the company had never bribed any politician. Hernádi was earlier acquitted of the charge by the Hungarian judiciary.
In a statement, MOL said it was “disappointed” with the verdict, as previous verdicts by the Hungarian courts and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) had all acquitted the company of any wrongdoing.
“We are disappointed but not surprised,” the statement said. “This was not the first unfair trial to be conducted in Croatia.”
The company noted that in 2015, Croatia’s constitutional court had annulled Sanader’s earlier conviction for accepting bribes relating to INA and ordered a new trial.
It also noted the Budapest Municipal Court’s refusal to execute a European Arrest Warrant for the MOL CEO, citing a “risk that [Hernádi’s] right to a fair trial would be infringed and an impartial judgement of the case would not be ensured”.
MOL rejected the charges and vowed to continue to defend itself against the “baseless accusations”.
MOL holds just under half of INA’s shares but has management rights in the company. The other big stakeholder is the state of Croatia. The sides have long been at odds over INA’s strategy.
Commenting on the verdict at a press conference on a different topic, Christian Democrat lawmaker Lőrinc Nacsa slammed the proceedings against Hernádi as a “witch hunt”. He said the matter was “Croatia’s own internal political dispute”, adding that it was not Hungary’s place to get involved.