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Croatia convicts ex-PM Ivo Sanader of war profiteering

Zagreb court orders Ivo Sanader to repay the state over $550,000 he took in bribes during 1990s conflict.

Ivo Sanader, former prime minister of Croatia, has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for war profiteering during the country's 1990s conflict.

The 65-year-old was on Monday found guilty of accepting nearly 500,000 euros ($558,500) in bribes from Austria's Hypo Group Alpe Adria bank when he was a deputy foreign minister.

The cash came in the form of a five percent commission Sanader collected on the bank loan that was used to pay for Croatian embassies abroad, a court in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, said.

Sanader will have to pay the state back for the amounts he took in bribes, but he will not have to go jail as he already served time in a previous sentence and detention period.

His lawyer, Jadranka Slokovic, said he would appeal the verdict.

Sanader was first sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012 for taking bribes from the bank as well as pocketing millions of euros from Hungary's energy giant MOL.

But the sentence was later cut to eight-and-half years before the country's top court quashed it in 2014, saying Sanader's right to a fair trial had been violated.

A retrial was ordered and the two cases were separated.

Not guilty

Sanader, who led the government as the prime minister from 2003 to 2009 and faces several other corruption cases, pleaded not guilty when the retrial opened in March.

In a separate trial on Monday, the Zagreb court acquitted him on abuse of power charges over the sale of electricity from the state-run power firm HEP to two local companies at below-market prices.

Sanader is the highest Croatian official to be charged with corruption since the country proclaimed independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

He steered Croatia into NATO and to the doorstep of the European Union in the 2000s.

Tackling corruption was key for Croatia's successful bid to join the EU in 2013.

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