Hungary rejects arrest warrant from Croatia for oil boss

A Hungarian court rejected Monday a European arrest warrant issued by Croatia for the head of Hungary's energy group MOL, in a case that landed a former Croatian prime minister in jail.

"The Budapest Metropolitan Court has decided to reject the arrest warrant and the handing over" of Zsolt Hernadi, Budapest chief prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said in a statement.

Ibolya said the ruling was in line with European law on double jeopardy as last year Hungarian prosecutors dropped a probe into the case due to lack of evidence "of criminal wrongdoing".

"The facts of the case haven't changed since then," he said.

Zagreb suspects Hernadi of striking a deal in 2008 with Croatia's ex-prime minister Ivo Sanader under which MOL allegedly paid 10 million euros ($13.5 million) in return for assuring its control of Croatian oil and gas company INA.

Sanader, who led the Croatian government from 2003 to 2009, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in November for corruption, including for receiving five million euros over the alleged MOL deal.

Croatia's prosecutors have twice asked Hungary to question Hernadi, and twice sought to interrogate him in Zagreb, but all requests have so far been denied.

Croatian prosecutors have argued that there was no question of double jeopardy in the case because charges had not been filed against Hernadi and he had not been tried in Hungary.

In an angry response Hungary last week threatened Croatia with legal action and said it would ask MOL to consider selling its 49.1-percent stake in INA.