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Croatia says indicts MOL's CEO over bribes tied to INA stake

Source: Reuters - Mon, 31 Mar 2014 21:25 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds MOL reaction)

ZAGREB/BUDAPEST, March 31 (Reuters) - Croatia's anti-graft police said on Monday they had indicted the chief executive of Hungarian energy group MOL for paying bribes in exchange for MOL getting a large stake in Croatian oil and gas firm INA.

In a statement published on its website, the police anti-graft unit USKOK gave just the initials of MOL chief Zsolt Hernadi, a common practice in Croatian police statements.

"The indictment accuses the head of MOL's management ... of striking a deal for Croatia's (then) Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader, to do everything possible for the amount of 10 million euros to change the shareholders' agreement in INA," the statement said.

Sanader has already been jailed for 10 years in the case. He and MOL have previously denied the accusations and Sanader has appealed his conviction to the Croatian Supreme Court.

A MOL spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Reuters that the company was not at this time aware of any formal charges against its chief executive.

"Mr. Hernadi has demonstrated already to the MOL board's full satisfaction why assertions are unfounded and why the case is without merit; we would therefore expect Mr. Hernadi to appropriately defend himself against any future accusations as he has successfully done in the past," the statement added.

MOL is the biggest shareholder in INA with almost 50 percent, while the Croatian government holds close to 45 percent.

"The deal was aimed at securing undue dominance by MOL in INA," the statement said.

USKOK said that after the shareholders' agreement was changed, Hernadi organised a payment of 10 million euros to Sanader.

Relations between MOL and Zagreb have been strained for several years and they are now engaged in talks to redefine their partnership in INA. MOL said it was ready to sell its INA stake if no deal was reached. (Reporting by Igor Ilic, Krisztina Than; editing by Toby Chopra and G Crosse)

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