Croatia's deputy PM quits after jail sentence

Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:20pm EST
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By Zoran Radosavljevic and Sandor Peto

BUDAPEST/ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic resigned on Wednesday after a Hungarian court sentenced him to 22-months in prison for causing a fatal car crash in Hungary in 2010.

Cacic was also economy minister and Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's closest ally in the centre-left coalition cabinet which has tried to consolidate public finances and kickstart the economy before joining the European Union next July.

"Aware of my responsibilities to the state, the government and Croatian citizens, I am resigning from the government," Cacic told a news conference after returning from an investment trip in Qatar.

Cacic was driving on Hungary's main motorway in 2010 when he collided with a car in front of him. The impact injured two passengers, who later died in hospital.

He was given a suspended sentence in a previous ruling in June. Wednesday's ruling overturned that sentence.

Attila Vadocz, a court spokesman in the Hungarian town of Kaposvar, said the sentence was not open to appeal, adding Cacic could be released on parole after spending half of the 22 months in prison.

"He will be sorely missed in the government," Milanovic told the news conference, adding his successor will "probably be decided by the end of this week".

Milanovic's Social Democrats are in coalition with Cacic's Croatian People's Party, its junior partner.   Continued...

Judge Margit Simon (L) waits for documents from lawyer Peter Zamecsnik (2nd R) during a court ruling, in which Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Radimir Cacic was given a prison sentence, in Kaposvar November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer