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Former Croatian PM arrested in Austria on corruption allegations

By the CNN Wire Staff
A file image of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader dated October 12, 2010.
A file image of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader dated October 12, 2010.
  • NEW: Ivo Sanader was arrested in Salzburg, official says
  • Sanader is wanted for abuse of position and power in Croatia
  • A party member claims Sanader will return to Croatia to prove his innocence
  • Interpol and Croatian prosecutors accuse Sanader of fraud and corruption
  • Croatia

(CNN) -- Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has been arrested in Salzburg, Austria, an Austrian Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said Friday.

His arrest came after an international warrant was issued by Croatian prosecutors accusing him of abuse of position and power, according to Croatia's Ministry of Interior.

Sanader was arrested on a highway in Salzburg, said the spokeswoman, who works for the extradition division of Austria's Justice Ministry and did not want to be named.

Sanader will be extradited to Croatia, according to Croatian state-run HTV.

Sanader faces allegations of corruption dating to his years as prime minister from 2003 to 2009, according to prosecutors.

A popular, conservative politician, Sanader was a leading member of the Christian Conservative HDZ party founded by Croatia's first post-communist president, Franjo Tudman.

Fellow party member Jerko Rosen said Sanader, who left the country on business, will return to Croatia immediately to fight the charges, RTL-Croatia reported. Rosen said he does not know Sanader's whereabouts.

Sanader, who has an international passport, has been stripped of any official immunity, RTL reported. He is listed on the Interpol site as a fugitive wanted on fraud and organized crime offenses.

Secret U.S. diplomatic cables recently released by the WikiLeaks website allege that kickbacks were being investigated during Sanader's term, and that there "appears to be a new attitude toward allegedly corrupt party members that is strengthening the political will to fight corruption at all levels in the Croatian government and economy."

"For the past three years, the Croatian State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (USKOK) has been ratcheting up its activity in corruption cases," the cable stated.

It is not clear whether Sanader has hired an attorney to represent him.