11 Dec 2010

Former Croatian PM arrested on Austrian motorway

10:01 pm on 11 December 2010

Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader, who is wanted in connection with a corruption investigation, has been arrested by police in Austria.

Mr Sanader left Croatia on Thursday shortly before Parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution, and the authorities later issued a warrant for his arrest.

The warrant said he was suspected of conspiring to commit crime and abuse of office.

Police stopped him on a motorway in western Austria.

Mr Sanader says the accusations against him are politically motivated. "I didn't head a [criminal] gang, I headed the cabinet," the Croatian news agency Hina has quoted him as saying.

The BBC reports that correspondents say a judge will now have to rule on whether Mr Sanader should be extradited back to Croatia; it's unclear how long this might take.

Carried on as independent MP

Croatia is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into alleged corruption, designed in part to prove its readiness to join the European Union.

Mr Sanader, prime minister from 2003 to 2009, is the most senior official to be investigated so far.

He resigned unexpectedly in July 2009 in the middle of his second term as leader. Last January he was expelled by the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) but he carried on as an independent MP.