Former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (Photo: file Marko Lukunic/PIXSELL) Former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (Photo: file Marko Lukunic/PIXSELL)

Sanader, two co-defendants, and his political party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), were convicted of creating a slush fund for the party by syphoning money from public companies and institutions through the Fimi-Media marketing agency.

The HDZ's former treasurer Mladen Barišić and cashier Branka Pavošević were sentenced to 2 years and 10 months and one year and 4 months in prison, respectively.

"The court has found that the first defendant, Mr. Sanader, organized and brought together the second defendant, Mr. Barišić, the fourth defendant, Ms. Pavošević, and the deceased Ms. Jurak for the purpose of acting jointly. The goal of the organization was to obtain significant financial benefit for the defendant, Mr. Sanader, and to finance the fifth defendant, the HDZ," said Judge Irena Kvaternik.

The HDZ has been ordered to pay 10.3 million kuna in damages. Prosecutors said the verdict was too lenient and that they planned to appeal. Sanader is also expected to appeal, as is the HDZ.

Sanader, who was arrested in 2010 in connection with this case, is already serving a prison sentence related to another corruption conviction. He was not in the courtroom on Friday to hear the verdict. Although he is serving his sentence, Sanader has been free on compassionate release for health reasons.