02 October 2013 11:22 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS)--Hungary’s MOL has pledged to keep Zsolt Hernadi as its CEO and board chairman, despite Croatia stepping up its efforts to have him questioned by anti-corruption investigators by issuing an international arrest warrant, the oil, gas and petrochemicals group said on Wednesday.
Subsequent to the 27 September issue of a detention order for Hernadi by a Croatian court, after Croatia's Anti-corruption and Organised Crime Office (USKOK) stated that he had failed to present himself for questioning, Croatia issued Interpol and European arrest warrants for the CEO.
USKOK wants to quiz Hernadi in the wake of the 10-year sentence handed down to former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who allegedly took bribes from MOL in return for granting the group full management rights over Croatian refiner INA in 2008, despite its stake in the company being less than 50%.
MOL categorically denies that Hernadi or any of its employees have been involved in any criminal conduct in relation to INA, and following the issuing of the arrest warrants the group issued a statement to the Budapest stock exchange.
It stated: “MOL's corporate governance structure... is an appropriate structure to cope with all the operational issues under this challenging situation. Not being able to travel internationally until this legal case is solved in our favour would be inconvenient for Mr. Hernadi as an individual, and may hinder some protocol duties, but would not in any way as to impair his ability to steer the group in his capacity as group chairman and CEO.”
MOL also claimed that the actions taken against Hernadi “appear to be influenced by interests seeking to intimidate both the company and its chairman.”
The statement also claimed that the approach taken to issuing the warrants by Croatia was flawed under European law.
“Whilst Croatia may be at liberty to [issue warrants] under its national law, we maintain that the manner in which the Croatian authorities are currently proceeding is in contradiction to supra-national European law, which provides for an EU-wide common regime, which Croatia has opted to be legally bound by through its accession to the EU earlier this year,” the statement said.
On 16 September, Hungary's Prosecutor General rejected a USKOK summons for Hernadi to submit himself to questioning.
Three days prior to that, MOL announced that it had instructed lawyers over its dispute with Croatia in regard to the future control of INA, and warned that it would commence legal action to protect its shareholders should a workable solution not be found.
MOL owns a 49.1% stake in INA, while the Croatian government owns 44.8%.
The Hungarian government owns a 24.6% stake in MOL.
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