STRASBOURG, France (CN) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the CEO of a Hungarian oil and gas company cannot bring his fight against Croatia prosecutors to the court because he hasn’t exhausted his legal options in the Croatian judicial system.
Zsolt Hernadi, head of the Hungarian oil group MOL, was charged with bribing former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in 2009, in an effort to get a controlling stake in Croatian oil company INA. Sanader was convicted of corruption charges in 2012.
Despite being indicted by Croatia in 2014, Hungarian authorities have refused to extradite Hernadi, despite the issuance of several European arrest warrants.
Hungarian prosecutors investigated the bribery claims themselves in 2012 but found no evidence of wrongdoing.
“No crime was committed in the interests of MOL, by its executives, therefore we ended the investigation due to a lack of criminal actions,” the Hungarian Central Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution said at the time.
According to his complaint before the Strasbourg-based rights court, which takes cases under the European Convention of Human Rights, Hernadi is unable to travel abroad as a result of the arrest warrants, which he says violates his freedom of movement.
He also filed two complaints with the Croatian Constitutional Court, but both were dismissed. Croatia pointed out during the 2015 hearing that Hernadi’s complaints focused on the court-ordered pretrial detention, rather than the case as a whole.
In a ruling issued Thursday, the Court of Human Rights found that arguments should first be brought before national authorities to “give them the opportunity of remedying the situation.”
“The Court finds that before bringing his complaint before it about the restriction on his freedom of movement and his inability to travel freely out of Hungary…the applicant was first required to raise that complaint properly before the Constitutional Court,” the ruling states.
The rights court agreed with Croatia regarding the limited scope of Hernadi’s legal challenges there.
“He confined himself to challenging the criminal courts’ interpretation of the relevant domestic law on the question of when a detention order could be made for the purpose of preventing a defendant from evading justice and he only vaguely made reference to the fact that the [arrest warrant] had been issued,” the ruling states.
“However, in the absence of an actual complaint by the applicant in this respect in his constitutional complaints, and the fact that a request for suspension [of the detention order] is not intended to resolve the dispute raised before the Constitutional Court, the Court does not consider that by asking the Constitutional Court to issue such an interim order the applicant properly raised his complaint before the Constitutional Court,” it continues.