ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial of former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader on Thursday and annulled his 2014 conviction for rigging public tenders and abusing state funds.
After nearly three years in jail, Sanader can now leave on bail of 12.4 million kuna ($1.8 million) after the court ruled that procedural errors had affected his right to a fair trial.
In July Croatia’s Constitutional Court annulled two other corruption convictions against Sanader, the former head of the then ruling conservative HDZ party, and also ordered a retrial.
Sanader was sentenced to nine years in prison in March last year and HDZ was ordered to return about 29 million kuna paid into party funds by state-owned firms between 2003 and 2009.
The trial was part of an anti-graft drive to boost Croatia’s European Union accession efforts. Croatia joined the EU in 2013.
Sanader was also sentenced to 8-1/2 years in jail for taking a bribe from Hungary’s oil firm MOL in 2008 to allow it to buy a dominant stake in Croatian oil company INA, and for taking bribes from Austria’s Hypo Bank in 1994 and 1995 when he was deputy foreign minister.
The Constitutional Court said in July that he was the victim of a mistrial in that case also. The retrial started last month.
Croatia is due to hold parliamentary elections in November and Thursday’s decision could give the HDZ a boost. The party has edged past the ruling center-left coalition in opinion polls in recent months.
Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Louise Ireland