Croatia’s fugitive ex-premier arrested
VIENNA — Ivo Sanader, former prime minister of Croatia, was arrested yesterday on an international warrant a day after he left his home country amid a corruption investigation.
Sanader was taken into custody on the expressway connecting the provinces of Salzburg and Carinthia and then brought to the detention facilities of the Salzburg provincial court, said Alexander Marakovits, a spokesman for the Austrian Federal Office of Criminal Investigations.
The arrest came after “intense cooperation’’ between Croatian, Austrian, and German authorities that began in the early hours of yesterday morning, he said.
Sanader, who abruptly resigned as prime minister 17 months ago, left Croatia on Thursday morning when it became clear that prosecutors wanted to investigate him on allegations of conspiring to commit crimes and abuse of office.
He was last seen driving into neighboring Slovenia on Thursday morning.
Croatia’s Office for Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption did not disclose details of the ongoing investigation, but Zagreb district court ordered Sanader’s 30-day detention at the office’s request.
Sanader is the highest-ranking official to be charged with a crime since Croatia became independent in 1991.
The Croatian Parliament lifted Sanader’s immunity from prosecution on Thursday afternoon.
Once hailed at home and abroad for uprooting the nationalism that reigned in Croatia in the 1990s and making it pro-Western, Sanader’s biographical information.
His photo appeared on Croatian police and Interpol lists of wanted persons yesterday, and police searched his home.
The former prime minister has a company in Austria and has visited the United States to speak at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, which focuses on countries of the former Soviet Union, East Central Europe, and the Balkans.
Barbara Feichtiger, a spokeswoman for the Salzburg public prosecutor’s office, said Sanader’s brother, an Austrian citizen, was with him at the time of arrest but was not detained. It was unclear how long Sanader would be in Austrian custody.
“These are formal proceedings that will take time,’’ Feichtiger said.
In Croatia, Police Chief Vitomir Bijelic told RTL television there were indications Sanader was planning to travel to Munich from Austria, and from there, to the United States.
“We received information, however, that the US officials turned down his request for a visa,’’ he said.
Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic and his Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger both refused to comment on the arrest.