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Croatian Former Premier, Ruling Party on Trial for Graft

April 16 (Bloomberg) -- A Croatian county court began trying today the Croatian Democratic Union, which lost elections in December to an opposition bloc, and former premier Ivo Sanader on corruption charges.

The party, which ruled for 17 of the 21 years after the end of communism in 1990, Sanader and three other party officials are charged by the Public Prosecutor for allegedly siphoning money from state companies, the court in Zagreb said in a statement on its website.

The party is accused of illegally gaining 31.6 million-kuna ($5.5 million), while Sanader received 15 million kuna, prosecutors have alleged.

“The money was siphoned without the knowledge of the party’s offices,” Davorin Budin, lawyer for the Croatian Democratic Union, told the court. He added there was a parallel chain of financing within the party, of which the leadership was unaware.

The Croatian Democratic Union lost a Dec. 4 election to a group led by the Social Democrats amid several corruption scandals involving top party officials. Sanader was premier from 2003 to July 2009, when he left without explanation. He was arrested in Austria in 2010 on an international warrant and extradited to Croatia in July 2011.

This is the third indictment for Sanader, who is also on trial for alleged corruption in cases involving Hungary’s Mol Nyrt. and Austria’s Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International AG.

Calls to Sanader’s lead lawyer Cedo Prodanovic were not immediately returned. The former premier has denied the allegations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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