Damir Polancec.jpg
Former Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Former Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec et al. in a corruption case dubbed Spice were on Monday acquitted of corruption charges of defrauding the Koprivnica-based Podravka food company of HRK 400 million (approx. 53.3 million euros), however, four of the defendants were found guilty of damaging Podravka through lending 65 million to the Split-based SMS food company, according to a ruling delivered by the Zagreb County Court.

The defendants are Polancec, former Podravka executives Darko Marinac, Zdravko Sestak, Josip Pavlovic and Sasa Romac, the director of the private SMS company from Split, Srdjan Mladinic, Fima co-owner Milan Horvat, and attorney Zoran Markovic.

The defendants in the Spice case were accused of trying to take over Podravka with its own money, according to charges pressed by the Croatian serious fraud office (USKOK).  Apart from conspiracy, they were accused of abuse of office, aiding and abetting as well as inciting the abuse, and illegal brokerage.

In its closing argument the prosecution proposed guilty verdicts for all the defendants, while the indictees insisted on their innocence and refuted all charges.

The court today ruled that Podravka was defrauded of HRK 65 million through a loan to the SMS private company, and Marinac was given two years, Sestak and Pavlovic ten and nine months respectively and Mladinic was given a suspended sentence  of six months with two-year-long probation in this case.

This is a non-final verdict, and if it becomes final, Marianc will have to pay back 65 million to Podravka and the other three convicts 10 million.

The "Spice" graft trial started in June 2011. During five years of the proceedings over 130 witnesses have been questioned.

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