ivo sanader.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Daniel KASAP / mm

Law firms representing Croatia and the Hungarian oil and gas company MOL in arbitration proceedings before the UN Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) have confirmed in a joint statement that former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and a former member of the Management Board of the Croatian oil and gas company INA and now a consultant for MOL, Josip Petrovic, were interviewed in the arbitration proceedings as independent witnesses at the invitation of the presiding judge of the arbitral tribunal.

"The law firms Squire Patton Boggs LLP, counsel for the Republic of Croatia, and Dechert LLP, counsel for MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas PLC, have been ordered by the UNCITRAL Tribunal seized of Croatia's claim against MOL to issue this joint statement concerning the appearance of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and Mr. Josip Petrović to testify before the Arbitral Tribunal on 15-17 April 2016 in London. We have been directed to do so in order to rectify certain false and inaccurate statements that have appeared in the Croatian press," the two law firms said in the statement.

"Specifically, recent press reports that Dr. Sanader and Mr. Petrovic testified as witnesses 'for MOL' are false and inaccurate. Dr. Sanader and Mr. Petrovic were invited by the President of the UNCITRAL Arbitral Tribunal to testify as independent witnesses. Dr. Sanader and Mr. Petrovic therefore appeared as witnesses for the UNCITRAL Arbitral Tribunal and not as witnesses for either MOL or the Republic of Croatia," they stressed in the statement.

The expenses associated with the witnesses' travel to London are shared equally by the parties, reads the statement.

The Arbitral Tribunal has directed the parties to reiterate that the testimony of witnesses and all other materials that have been presented in the arbitration are strictly confidential, both parties having undertaken to abide by strict rules of confidentiality and nondisclosure.

The tribunal emphasises that it is not appropriate for issues still under discussion and review in the arbitration to be ventilated in the press, the firms said in the statement.

Sanader said on Tuesday that he testified before the UNCITRAL Arbitral Tribunal at the invitation of the Arbitral Tribunal and not as a witness for MOL.

The former prime minister, who is standing trial before a Croatian court for taking bribes in exchange for ceding to MOL majority management rights in INA, said that during his testimony before the Arbitral Tribunal he answered questions from the Tribunal members and from representatives of Croatia and MOL and stated that he had not taken any bribes.

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