Former prime minister Ivo Sanader on Monday started presenting his defence in a corruption case dubbed "Planinska", insisting that in this case, just as in the previous trials whose verdicts have been quashed by higher courts, he was a victim of political persecution and conspiracy by the USKOK anti-corruption office.
"I am not a criminal and did not do what I am charged with. I am proud of my two terms as Prime Minister and of the results we achieved, from excellent economic results to the reforms we conducted," said Sanader.
In the Planinska case, Sanader is charged with having received bribes in the amount of HRK 17 million (approx. EUR 2.23 million) after the Regional Development Ministry in 2009 bought a building from a company run by former Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) member of Parliament and owner of a chain of butcher shops, Stjepan Fiolic, who admitted to having given the money to Sanader.
Apart from Fiolic, who was also indicted in this case despite the fact that he admitted to the charges, former Regional Development Minister Petar Cobankovic, too, admitted to the charges, after which he plea-bargained with the prosecution and was sentenced to community service.
"In each case that is conducted against me at the Zagreb County Court, there is one person, an indictee, a suspect, who admits to their alleged wrongdoing and is pressured by the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor to shift the responsibility onto me... That was the case with Robert Jezic in the Hypo and INA-MOL cases, with Mladen Barisic in the Fimi Media case, with Fiolic in the Planinska case, and with Ivan Mravak in the HEP-Dioki case," Sanader told the court.
He recalled that by quashing the verdict in the Hypo and INA-MOL cases, the Constitutional Court concluded that the County Court must not criminalise government decisions. "Similarity with the Planinska case is evident. The reason why that happened - the criminal prosecution launched by USKOK was politically motivated," Sanader said, insisting that his criminal prosecution had been initiated by his deputy Jadranka Kosor and former Chief State Prosecutor Mladen Bajic.
Sanader will be presenting his defence in the Planinska case for three days in January, after which other defendants will present their defence.
Also charged in this case is Mladen Mlinarevic, whose company, according to USKOK, had appraised and doubled the value of the building for which Sanader received bribes before it was bought by the ministry run by Cobankovic at the time.