ZAGREB, Sept 27 (Reuters) - A Croatian court issued a detention order for the chief executive of Hungarian energy group MOL, Zsolt Hernadi, after he failed to appear for questioning in a bribery case, it said on Friday.
Croatian state prosecutors are investigating allegations that MOL bribed former prime minister, Ivo Sanader, in 2008 to gain control of Croatia’s oil and gas firm INA even without buying a majority stake.
Hungarian authorities have refused two requests from Croatia to question Hernadi, citing the protection of national interests and saying there was no legal reason to do so. Their refusal may lead to Croatia issuing a European Arrest Warrant for Hernadi.
Hungary’s own investigation in 2011-12 found that neither MOL nor its officials played any role in the alleged bribery.
“He is a flight risk because the Hungarian side failed to meet (Croatia’s anti-graft police’s) USKOK’s request for questioning him,” the court said in a statement on its website.
MOL’s general counsel said he had no knowledge of any request from Croatia for Hernadi to be questioned, and called the citing of flight risk “unreasonable and baseless”.
Pal Kara referred in a written reply to Reuters questions to the Hungarian authorities’ dismissal of the case against MOL and said authorities closed the case “due to lack of any criminal act and refused to further investigate into other assertions which amount to mere speculation and unfounded allegations.”
Sanader was found guilty last year of accepting a 5 million euro ($7 million) bribe from MOL in exchange for granting it a dominant position in INA. Both MOL and Sanader deny the accusations and Sanader has filed an appeal.
Hernadi has also denied any wrongdoing.
MOL owns close to 50 percent of INA, while the government owns almost 45 percent. Croatia says MOL’s management rights are excessive and that the Hungarian company has failed to invest adequately in INA’s development.
The two started negotiating a new shareholder agreement this month and a senior MOL official told Reuters the Hungarian side was not willing to give up its management control of INA.