ivo sanader.jpg
Photograph: Hina/ Dario GRZELJ/ dag

Three former ministers in the Ivo Sanader-led government told the Zagreb County Court on Tuesday that no pressure had been exerted on them in 2009 when the government made decisions on "assuming obligations" from the Ministry of Regional Development while it was purchasing a building owned by the then HDZ parliamentary deputy and meat factory owner Stjepan Fiolic.

The defence team for Sanader had requested the questioning of Ivan Suker, Gordan Jandrokovic and Bozo Biskupic, all three of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in an attempt to present the circumstances in which the consent had been given to the Ministry of Regional Development under the helm of HDZ minister Petar Cobankovic.

Former PM and former HDZ leader Sanader is charged with pushing for the building's purchase at that inner cabinet meeting, as a result of which the sales contract was signed the next day, hence defrauding the state budget of HRK 26.4 million, according to the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK). He is also accused of having received a kick-back of 17 million kuna for that disputable transaction.

Suker, who used to be the finance minister in the Sanader cabinet, today testified that he had not been exposed to any pressure before the decision about the building in Planinska Street had been reached. He recalled that the government greenlighted the borrowing by the Ministry of regional Development which should find some more space for its offices, but he said that there was no mention of the building in Planinska Street.

Jandrokovic, who used to be the foreign minister, said that he could not remember details from the meeting, held on 2 April 2009, when the concerned decision had been made as he had been more focused on Croatia's preparations to join NATO.

Cobankovic admitted, before the trial, to involvement in financial wrongdoing with the Planinska property, and was given a one-year prison sentence which he is serving through community service.

Fiolic, however, did not plea bargain with the USKOK anti-corruption office, although he confessed to giving Sanader more than HRK 17 million in commission after the unlawful sale of the Planinska property.

One more indictee in this case is Mladen Mlinarevic, whose company ensured a bloated value contract for the sale of Fiolic's building to the regional development ministry in 2009. Defendant Mlinarevic, whose company was hired to assess the value of Fiolic's building and was, according to the indictment, put the value at 79.9 million kuna, twice as much as the real value, before it was sold to the ministry, pleaded not guilty.

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