ZAGREB, Nov 13, 2020 – Explaining the non-final judgment in the Fimi Media case on Friday, presiding judge Irena Kvaternik said that former prime minister and HDZ leader Ivo Sanader had abused his office and power to the detriment of all citizens because of his insatiable needs.
“Sanader grossly abused his position and power. He enjoyed the privileges, but because of his insatiable needs he did that to the detriment of all citizens, including those who elected him. He created a narrative that political corruption was a rule rather than an exception,” the judge said.
She said that Sanader had used his position as prime minister to obtain money for his party from an illegal source, adding that the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party is responsible, as a legal entity, for the crimes committed by its then-president Sanader and former party accountant Branka Pavosevic.
She said that Sanader had organised this corruption operation by linking former party treasurer Mladen Barisic, Pavosevic and the late owner of the Fimi Media marketing agency, Nevenka Jurak.
“Each member had their specific role assigned to them by Sanader and each of them acted on his orders. They agreed that the HDZ would be financed from the profits made by Fimi Media via a so-called slush fund,” Judge Kvaternik said.
She said that the evidence presented only partly proved that Barisic had handed over HRK 15 million to Sanader on two occasions, but that the only proof of that was Barisic’s statement.
“Complying with the standards of the European Court of Human Rights, it was not possible to prove Sanader’s responsibility for this crime based on this statement alone,” the judge said.
She said that the charge was dropped that the HDZ had derived undue financial benefits from donations, adding that donations were a legal way of financing political parties. “This could possibly qualify as a minor offence in fundraising. The amount in question exceeds HRK 9 million.”
Speaking of financing, Judge Kvaterinik said that it was found that money from the slush fund was used to finance pop singer Marko Perkovic Thompson and the purchase of equipment for Osijek Television and Hrvatski List newspaper. However, no evidence was presented to prove that the slush fund money was used to buy two BMW cars and to pay singers Mate Miso Kovac and Nina Badric for their performances at party rallies in 2007.
“Since this was claimed only by Barisic, the court could not base its judgment only on that. It is possible that Barisic made the payments, but that does not mean that they were paid with money from Fimi Media,” the judge explained.
Kvaternik said that the money provided by Fimi Media could not be considered donations because it was obtained illegally. Sanader received about HRK 250,000 from the company’s profits, while the HDZ received more than HRK 14 million, and Nevenka Jurak and others also benefited, she added.
The judge noted that Sanader had wielded great influence both in his party and in the country.
“The court does not dispute that Sanader used his position as prime minister to secure money for his party from an illegal source. It was he who decided how that money was to be used by the party, although this should have been decided by the party’s presidency. We have heard from witness testimonies that the party could not buy even a single CD without Sanader’s permission,” Kvaternik said.
She said that the court did not believe Sanader’s statement that during his stay in Austria he had saved more than €2 million. She cited data from the Austrian Ministry of Finance showing that Sanader had not earned any income or paid taxes in Austria.
The judge said that the HDZ was ordered to pay back the HRK 14.6 million which it was found to have acquired unlawfully. HRK 2.5 million unlawfully acquired by Nevenka Jurak, who had died during the trial and her Fimi Media company had filed for bankruptcy, and deposited in the court’s account would also be seized.
The charge against former government spokesman Ratko Macek, for conspiring to commit crime, was dropped and he was also acquitted of abuse of office.
None of the defendants attended the sentencing hearing, and counsel for the defence and the prosecution announced they would appeal.