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Croatia’s Sanader Guilty of Bribery, More Arrests in Russian Anti-Graft Drive

Plus, Tajikistan wants to wean students from Western influence and North Caucasus strongmen argue over the proper way to bury slain rebels. by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, Joshua Boissevain, and Andrew McIntyre 21 November 2012

1. Croatian ex-premier Sanader guilty of bribery, war profiteering

 

Ivo Sanader, Croatia’s prime minister from 2003 to 2009, was found guilty 20 November of taking a bribe and war profiteering, The New York Times reports. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is expected to appeal.

 

Ivo Sanader

The Zagreb court found Sanader guilty of accepting a 5 million euro ($6.4 million) bribe from Hungarian energy company MOL to assist in its successful takeover of the Croatian state oil company, INA. MOL denies wrongdoing.

 

The war profiteering conviction stems from a kickback of about $700,000 Sanader was found to have taken from Austria’s Hypo Alpe Adria Bank in 1995, when he was deputy foreign minister. Croatia was under an international trade embargo at the time.

 

Sanader was extradited from Austria in 2011, where he had fled after his unexpected resignation as prime minister two years earlier.

 

Sanader faces separate charges of illegally channeling profits from state companies to the conservative political party he led, the Croatian Democratic Union.

 

2. Russian telecom CEO and investor named in new fraud probe

 

Russian authorities raided the homes of two top players at Rostelecom, a state telecoms company, on 20 November in the country’s fourth high-level corruption probe this month. Chief executive Alexander Provotorov and Konstantin Malofeyev, one of Rostelecom’s largest stakeholders, were detained and questioned by investigators.

 

Police said the case was not directly related to Rostelecom but rather a bad loan deal in 2007 involving Malofeyev’s Marshall Capital Partners, where Provotorov was a partner, according to the Financial Times. State-owned VTB Bank accuses the firm of defrauding it out of a $225 million loan for a purchase in which Malofeyev was both buyer and seller.

 

A minority shareholder at Rostelecom and its CEO are both under investigation for fraud. Image from video posted to Rostelecom YouTube account.

 

Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin fired Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov following allegations of his involvement in the sale of state assets below market value, though media reports attributed his dismissal more to political infighting than the scandal itself. Two other high-profile fraud investigations are focusing on Russian Space Systems, a state-owned aerospace firm accused of mismanaging hundreds of millions of dollars, and the embezzlement of at least $3 million earmarked for construction for September’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vladivostok, according to RT.com.

 

Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the Financial Times that the recent cases don’t necessarily imply a new anti-corruption drive, but rather that the Kremlin trying to “resolve [political] clan struggles and make an example.” In the Rostelecom case, analysts told Reuters that the raid could mean a management shakeup related to recent conflicts between Rostelecom and the Communications Ministry.

 

3. Chechen, Ingush leaders take up the cudgels again

 

The on-again, off-again war of words between the leaders of Chechnya and Ingushetia has flared up again over the proper way to bury the militants who are regularly killed by security forces in the region.

 

Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov reacted angrily after Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov blogged 8 November that the bodies of militants should be turned over to their families “in order not to breed terrorism.” Yevkurov’s post was provoked by Chechen mufti Sultan Mirzayev’s directive forbidding religious funerals for slain Islamic rebels, Radio Free Europe writes.

 

The two had previously clashed when Kadyrov disputed Yevkurov’s account of an August incident near the two republics’ common border when several suspected insurgents were killed, and again over the delineation of the border line.

 

Yevkurov has taken a softer line on militants than Kadyrov. He recently set up a hotline to help fighters return to civilian life, RIA Novosti writes. An Ingush security official told the news agency that 46 militants and their “accomplices” had turned themselves in to regional law enforcement in the past 18 months.

 

4. CEZ may go to arbitration as Albanian woes continue

 

Czech energy giant CEZ is looking for a way to pull out of the Albanian electricity market, analysts say after a week that saw CEZ cut off the power Albanians need to pump water and the arrests of CEZ employees.

 

CEZ has long complained of mounting unpaid bills by individual and corporate customers in Albania, which has chronic power generation and distribution ills. Last week CEZ followed through on a September threat to cut off power to several Albanian water companies it says owe its Albanian subsidiary, CEZ Shperndarje, more than $50 million.

 

Six CEZ employees were arrested over the weekend, and two remained in custody 19 November, Bloomberg reports.

 

Shperndarje restored power to the water companies in compliance with a 17 November decision by a Tirana court. CEZ spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanova said the company might seek international arbitration to settle its disputes with Albanian authorities. CEZ reported an operating loss of $190 million in Albania for the first nine months of the year.

 

On 19 November the Albanian energy regulator, ERE, said it had begun the process of revoking Shperndarje’s license, Power Engineering reports.

 

5. Tajik universities warned against Western NGOs

 

rahmon_100Emomali Rahmon
Tajik officials are apparently trying to limit students’ exposure to Western-backed activist groups in what some government critics see as the latest attempt to stifle political discussion.

 

According to Reuters, a new Education Ministry directive orders foreign civil-society and human-rights groups to apply for approval to hold seminars and other events at universities, a bureaucratic measure that opposition figures such as Social Democratic Party leader Rakhmatillo Zoiirov label as a preemptive strike ahead of presidential elections. "It stems from [official] fears that political themes will be floated during conferences and seminars in the run-up to the presidential elections, and that foreigners might say something unpleasant about the president and the government,” Zoiirov said.

 

Autocratic President Emomali Rahmon is expected to seek another term in the election set for November 2013.

 

Details of the order to universities remain unclear. EurasiaNet.org reports seeing an Education Ministry document stating, “any kind of conferences, seminars, other gatherings, or meetings with students through international organizations is against the law.”

 

One official questioned by EurasiaNet.org first denied the existence of the document, then clarified that the ministry’s intent was to “work closely with NGOs. The main thing is [for students] to attend lessons on time.”

 

The move follows a government order to close the prominent anti-torture group Amparo and the blocking of several international websites in October. 

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor for TOLIoana Caloianu and Joshua Boissevain are TOL editorial assistants. Andrew McIntyre is a TOL editorial intern.
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