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Croatian prosecutor asks Hungary legal assistance in INA case

Croatia's public prosecutor has requested legal assistance from its Hungarian counterpart with regard to an investigation into Croatian oil company INA, Hungary's Chief Public Prosecutor told MTI on Wednesday morning.

The request did not include an extradition request, the statement of the office of the Hungarian Chief Public Prosecutor said, adding that they are assessing the request for the assistance.

INA is a unit of Hungarian oil and gas company MOL.

On Tuesday daily newspaper Népszabadság reported that Croatian authorities had requested legal assistance including the preliminary extradition of MOL CEO Zsolt Hernádi with regard to alleged bribery of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of Croatia aimed at gaining control over Croatian peer INA.

The Croatian authorities are ready to question Hernádi in Hungary too, the paper said, citing independent sources who wished to remain anonymous.

Both MOL and the Hungarian authorities denied of having received any official notification of such a request, and the Croatian attorney general's spokesperson also denied they had issued an extradition request.

MOL asked for a correction from Népszabadság, and in its Wednesday issue, Népszabadság retracted its claim that Croatian authorities had asked Hernádi’s preliminary extradition.

MOL dismissed the report by Croatian daily Vecernji list of alleged bribery at the time.

Asked about the report at a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the government "does not want to intervene or play any role in the matter.

Orbán also said Tuesday that the state of Hungary, as a prospective 25% owner of MOL, will not agree to any change in the contract between MOL and INA, Commenting on an earlier report in the Croatian press that the Croatian government could cancel the contract.

MOL holds a 47.46% stake in INA and the Croatian government owns 44.84%.

MOL dropped 3.6% on the news and closed at HUF 20,150 on an exchange-high turnover of 10.2 billion on Tuesday. It started Wednesday at Tuesday's close and slipped to 20,085 by 11 am.