February 13, 2015 / 1:17 PM / in 3 years

Croatia charges Zagreb mayor with misusing funds

ZAGREB (Reuters) - The mayor of Croatia’s capital city was charged on Friday with misusing public funds, a blow to the career of one of the country’s most prominent politicians.

The state prosecutor’s office said it had indicted Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic and two associates of misusing 308,000 kuna ($45,000) of the city’s money.

Bandic was arrested in October and stood aside to let his deputy run the city, home to a quarter of Croatia’s 4.4 million people and the economic capital of the former Yugoslav republic. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecutor’s office said at the time that it was investigating “a number of corruption crimes” so it was not immediately clear if Friday’s indictment would be followed by others.

The indictment, posted on the prosecutor’s website, says Bandic illegally funded a local civic group as it was seeking a referendum to change the way members of parliament are elected.

Bandic, 59, mayor since 2000, was a member of the current ruling party, the Social Democrats, but quit in 2009 to run for president, losing in the second round.

He has spoken of forming a new party to contest this year’s parliamentary election where economic recession and high unemployment will test the Social Democrats’ hold on power.

Croatia launched an anti-corruption drive in 2010 to boost its bid to join the European Union, which it did in 2013. It has convicted several top officials, including former prime minister Ivo Sanader.

($1 = 6.7563 kuna)

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Robin Pomeroy

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