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Ex-Croatian PM's corruption trial adjourned

By Darko Bandic
Associated Press / October 28, 2011

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ZAGREB, Croatia—The corruption trial of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was adjourned Friday because of his health problems.

Sanader faces charges of receiving kickbacks from an Austrian bank during the time he served as deputy foreign minister in the 1990s. He is the highest ranking former Croat official to face war profiteering corruption charges.

The trial was adjourned after some 40 minutes when Sanader complained of heart problems and high blood pressure. The judge scheduled a new court hearing for Nov. 3.

Sanader's trial comes only about a month before parliamentary elections as Croatia's ruling party, the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) which he once headed, faces an investigation by the country's anti-graft authorities for illegal financing.

Croatia's parliament on Friday voted to dissolve itself, paving the way for President Ivo Josipovic to formally call the elections probably for Dec. 4.

A frail-looking Sanader appeared in the courtroom dressed casually and apologized to the judge for not wearing a suit, saying he believed he was being taken from his prison cell to see a doctor.

"I am sorry I came here dressed like this, I was told I was going to the hospital," he said as he took the seat in the courtroom.

"I feel symptoms of high blood pressure, just as I have over the past few weeks," Sanader said. "I feel pressure in my chest."

He was taken to hospital for checkups after the court hearing.

Sanader is charged with abuse of power when he allegedly took the equivalent of some $695,000 (euro495,000) for a multimillion credit deal with Hypo Alpe Adria Group in 1994-95 that allowed the Austrian bank entry into the Croatian market.

The charges say that Croatia was at war for independence from Yugoslavia at the time and that Sanader "used the difficult position of the country to gain personal financial profit."

Sanader was Croatia's prime minister for six years before abruptly resigning in 2009.

He was extradited to Croatia from Austria in July to face several separate charges of corruption, including allegedly taking a euro10-million bribe that secured Hungarian energy company MOL a dominant position in Croatia's market.

Croatia, which has been under European Union's scrutiny for widespread corruption, is set to become the bloc's 28th member in the mid-2013.

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Associated Press writers Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.

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