Zagreb's mayor on trial for abuse of power

Zagreb (AFP) –


Zagreb's scandal-hit mayor went on trial Thursday on abuse of power charges that allegedly cost the Croatian capital tens of thousands of euros.

Milan Bandic has run the city almost continuously since 2000 -- with a brief gap after he was forced to resign in 2002 over a drink-driving case in which he fled from police.

The 62-year-old is best known for pulling out popular moves -- like lowering the cost of tram tickets -- a few months ahead of polls.

On Thursday a Zagreb court opened a trial on accusations that he defrauded the city of some 40,000 euros ($46,500) by allowing a Church-affiliated group to set up stands in the city for their campaign without paying fees to local authorities.

"I deny entirely all that I am indicted with," Bandic told a Zagreb court, quoted by local media.

The mayor is being tried along with his two former aides who also pleaded not guilty.

In 2015 Bandic and 15 others, including his closest aides, were charged with graft and abuse of power that allegedly cost the city and state budgets some three million euros.

That trial has yet to start.

Considered one of Croatia's most powerful politicians, the mayor heads is own party called "Bandic Milan 365 - Labour and Solidarity Party", a reference to his vow to work "16 hours a day, 365 days a year".