Austrian police arrested former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader Friday after a Zagreb court issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with an anti-corruption probe. Sanader resigned from office in 2009 and fled Croatia after losing immunity.
REUTERS - Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader, wanted in connection with an anti-corruption probe, was arrested in Austria on Friday, Croatian state television and the Austrian interior ministry said.
Sanader left the country on Thursday shortly before parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution. Prosecutors suspect him of being behind a plan to create slush funds for his conservative HDZ party during his 2004-09 tenure in power.
Sanader denies the accusations, saying they were politically motivated. He is the highest Croatian official investigated for corruption to date.
Sanader was taken into custody in Salzburg province, Austrian interior ministry spokesman Alexander Marakovits said. "He will go to the Salzburg provincial court and then the authorities will have to decide what will happen with him in the next days or the next weeks," he said.
Marakovits said Austria acted after receiving an international arrest warrant for Sanader. "Our police tried to find him and we located him on the highway this afternoon."
Analysts said legal action against the man who dominated local political life for a decade would help Zagreb's bid for European Union membership. Croatia hopes to conclude EU entry talks next year, but before that it has to convince Brussels of its determination to stamp out corruption.
Sanader resigned unexpectedly and with no explanation in July 2009. His ruling HDZ party expelled him in January.
In September, police arrested the chief of the national customs service, Mladen Barisic, a close friend of Sanader and party treasurer for the HDZ.
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