Mayor facing corruption charges forfeits $3 million bail

ZAGREB (AFP) - Zagreb's mayor, being held on an abuse of power charge, has forfeited his record €2 million (S$3 million) bail after allegedly interfering with the investigation against him, a court decided Thursday.

The Zagreb county tribunal judges rejected an appeal by Milan Bandic's attorneys and ruled that the bail money, the highest amount ever imposed in Croatia, would be transferred to the state coffers.

The ruling is final.

The bail was originally deposited to secure the release from custody last November of Bandic, one of the most powerful Croatian politicians, after he had been initially arrested as part of a complex corruption probe.

But the 59-year-old populist was put back behind bars last week for allegedly interfering with the investigation against him.

According to anti-corruption prosecutors, the Zagreb mayor twice tried to persuade a witness in the case against him to change a statement.

He also allegedly signed forged documents regarding ownership of some paintings and sculptures.

Bandic, who has led Zagreb almost continuously since 2000, was indicted along with two aides in early February in the first case against him.

According to the indictment he used some €40,000 of city funds to illegally finance a citizens' signature-gathering campaign.

Other corruption charges could follow for Bandic and aides who are also under investigation, with prosecutors estimating losses to the city and state of some €3 million.

Bandic is still formally the Zagreb mayor but has been banned from performing his duties.

A former top official of the ruling Social Democrats, he was evicted from the party after deciding to run for president as an independent in 2009, a contest he lost.

The fight against corruption was a key plank in the Balkan nation securing membership of the European Union which it did in 2013.