A Croatian court jailed a former general for seven years on Monday for stealing diamonds worth $5 million, the first high profile conviction since Croatia stepped up its fight against organised crime and corruption.
Zagreb county court found Vladimir Zagorec, also a former deputy defence minister, guilty of abuse of office and ordered $5 million of his property confiscated, the state news agency Hina said.
The fight against major crime and reform of Croatia's inefficient judiciary are key elements of its drive to join the European Union, which it hopes to do around 2011.
Zagorec's trial was part of a wider government investigation into abuse of defence funds during Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence from Serb-dominated federal Yugoslavia.
During the conflict, millions of dollars were allegedly funnelled into secret accounts abroad. No other suspects have been put on trial so far.
Prosecutors said Zagorec failed to return diamonds received from an arms dealer as a guarantee for delivery of anti-aircraft rockets during the independence war. They said Zagorec took the diamonds with him when he left his ministry post in 2000.
Zagorec denied the charges, saying he was a victim of political conspiracy.
Zagorec became a wealthy businessman in Austria and moved there permanently after his son was kidnapped in Zagreb in 2004 and he paid a hefty ransom for his safe return. Austria extradited him last October.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Mart 2009, 08:48