Radimir Cacic, Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister as well as Economy Minister, resigned from his post on Wednesday after an appeals court in Hungary sentenced him to 22 months in prison for causing a fatal car crash in 2010.
Cacic was heading toward Budapest along the M7 motorway in Hungary in January 2010 when his car collided with the vehicle in front. Two people were critically injured in the accident. Although they were rushed to hospital, both of them later succumbed to injuries.
A lower court in Hungary had earlier handed down a three-year suspended jail sentence to Cacic in June after finding him guilty of speeding and causing the accident. Although Cacic pleaded guilty to causing the accident during his first trial in June, he insisted that fog had seriously impaired his visibility.
Wednesday's ruling by the appeals court in the southern Hungarian city of Kaposvar came after both the prosecution and defense appealed against the earlier verdict. Despite sentencing Cacic to 22 months in prison, the appeals judges ruled that he could be paroled after serving half his sentence.
In wake of Wednesday's court ruling, 63-year-old Cacic announced his resignation after returning from an investment trip to Qatar. Addressing reporters in the Croatian capital Zagreb, he said: "Aware of my responsibilities to the state, the government and Croatian citizens, I am resigning from the government."
Nevertheless, Cacic did not specify he will serve the sentence in Croatia or Hungary. Notably, the Cacic's lawyers had indicated earlier that their client does not intended to appeal the verdict in Hungary.
Speaking at the same press conference, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said Cacic "will be sorely missed in the government," adding that his successor will "probably be decided by the end of this week."
Cacic is the leader of the Croatian People's Party, a partner in the 10-month-old ruling center-left coalition led by Prime Minister Milanovic. He is said to be Milanovic's closest ally in the coalition cabinet.
by RTT Staff Writer
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