The Management Board chair and chief executive officer of Hungary's MOL oil company, Zsolt Hernady, was not acquitted by a Hungarian court of the charges of a corrupt takeover of Croatia's INA oil company, which leaves open the possibility for Croatian authorities to prosecute him on the charges that he gave former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader EUR 10 million in bribes to acquire majority management rights in INA, the Jutarnji List daily reported on Monday.

The daily carried information published by an independent Hungarian investigative news portal according to which a Budapest-based appeals court has decided to drop the case against Hernadi for bribe giving.

Contrary to interpretations by Hernadi's legal team, according to which a final ruling has been passed in that case based on which Hernadi can avoid prosecution by Croatian judicial authorities, this leaves open the possibility for the Croatian judiciary to re-issue a European warrant for his arrest so that he can be put on trial without any procedural restrictions.

In 2013 Hernadi was charged with giving Sanader EUR 10 million in bribes in exchange for obtaining management rights in INA. He remains beyond the reach of the Croatian judiciary because the Hungarian judiciary, citing protection of national interests, has turned down requests by the Croatian prosecutorial authorities to enable his questioning.

Even though the Croatian judicial authorities never referred the case to Hungary, the Hungarian chief prosecutor established, based on his own investigation, that Hernadi had not committed the crime he is charged with.

In the meantime Hernadi was sued by former MOL employee and stockholder Ilona Banheygi, who claimed that she lost a profit of EUR 78,000 due to a plunge of MOL stock prices following reports about MOL's corrupt takeover of majority management rights in INA. She accused Hernadi of fraud and of giving bribes in international transactions.

The media claimed at the time that this was a manoeuver whereby Hernadi wanted to avoid a trial in Croatia, considering that Banheygi is the common law wife of a MOL Management Board member who was one of the main negotiators in talks with Sanader, along with Hernadi, and who was a witness for the defence in Sanader's trial in Croatia.

Jutarnji List says that this is evidenced by a secretly recorded conversation of the Polish PNK oil company's management board chair, which was published by the Polish media, in which he claims that Hernadi told him that the said lawsuit was rigged so as to prevent his possible trial in Croatia and that he would soon be acquitted of the charges.

A Budapest court in 2014 decided to acquit Hernadi of fraud and embezzlement charges, and the trial for international bribery was suspended. In late 2014, an appeals court made a ruling which Hernadi's defence interpreted as a final acquittal, saying that it had to be accepted as such also by the Croatian judiciary.

The Croatian anti-corruption office USKOK said in December 2014 that that ruling could not result in the application of the institute of double jeopardy to corruption proceedings conducted against Hernadi at a Zagreb court, but that this was rather an attempt by the Hungarian judiciary to prevent his prosecution in Croatia.

USKOK also recalled that it had never referred the case against Hernadi to the Hungarian judiciary.

The independent Hungarian news portal reported that Hernadi's defence then secretly initiated a review of the appeals court's ruling with a submission that proposed "a legal remedy for the protection of lawfulness" but that the state prosecutor thwarted that attempt, saying that the legal remedy had not been applied in that case.

Jutarnji List says that this decision removes any doubt as to whether the Croatian judiciary is authorised to prosecute Hernadi, and quotes statements by Croatian legal experts saying that the published documents made the situation completely clear, since the trial in Hungary did not result in a final ruling.

In July 2015 the Croatian Constitutional Court quashed the trial court verdict against Sanader that sentenced him to eight and a half years in prison for taking bribes from MOL and for war profiteering in the Hypo Bank case, returning the case to the Zagreb County Court for a retrial.

The court cited as the main reasons for its decision the failure by the lower courts to elaborate well enough on Sanader's capacity as "a public official" and the allegation that the agreements signed between the Croatian government and MOL were contrary to Croatia's interests.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.