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Mol’s Hernadi Named Suspect in Trial of Croatia’s Ex-Premier

Croatian prosecutors named Zsolt Hernadi, chairman of Hungary’s largest refiner, Mol Nyrt., as a suspect in the bribery trial of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

Sanader is accused of taking a bribe of 10 million euros ($13.6 million) from Mol between 2008 to 2009, when he was premier. In exchange, he arranged with Hernadi to give it controlling rights over Croatian refiner INA Industrija Nafte d.d. in a January 2009 shareholding agreement, Tamara Laptos, deputy head of the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime, told the district court in Zagreb today. Sanader and Mol deny the accusations.

Hernadi “has the status of a suspect in this case, and the investigation against him continues,” Laptos said. Sanader and Hernadi met in early 2008 in Zagreb and Budapest, working on an arrangement to give Mol control in INA, Laptos told the court in reading the indictment.

The Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime has asked Hungary for legal aid in the matter, Laptos said.

Mol’s spokesman Domokos Szollar said the company “categorically rejects and denies the allegations.”

Mol Denies Allegations

“There was no payment, nor any agreement on payment, with any Croatian politician or decision maker before, during or after” the signing of the shareholding agreement between the government and Mol in January 2009, Szollar said today by phone from Budapest.

Sanader’s trial for corruption and abuse of office began today, after the district court on Nov. 8 decided to merge two corruption probes into one. The second case involves Austria’s Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International AG.

Sanader is accused of taking a bribe of 3.6 million kuna ($690,000) from the Austrian bank between 1994 to 1995, when he was deputy foreign minister. In exchange, the Croatian government at the time took a loan of 140 million Austrian schillings ($14 million), the Alpine nation’s currency at the time, from Hypo bank, the Prosecutor General said on Aug. 31.

Sanader today reiterated his no-guilty plea on both accounts.

His lawyer, Cedo Prodanovic, said the defense team will call Hernadi to trial as a witness, national news agency HINA reported today.

The Croatian government on Oct. 27 asked the prosecutor general to “take all necessary measures” to protect its ownership and management rights in INA until a verdict is reached in Sanader’s case.

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