Have you seen this man? Do you even know who this man is? I'm guessing you don't. This is none other than Dr. Ivo Sanader. For six years Ivo Sanader was the prime minister and undisputed autocrat of Croatia. Members of his party, HDZ, as well as the vast majority of Croatian journalists and public figures, kissed the ground upon which he tread. Then, in July last year, Sanader abrupty and without explanation resigned his post and withdrew into the shadows. Almost immediately rumors abound. Rumors of real reasons behind his departure. Rumors of his future plans. But more importantly, rumors of criminal investigations into large-scale corruption at the highest echelons of government, ruling party and state-owned companies, all of which had been swept under a rug during the years of Sanader's supremacy. Fast forward six months and Sanader attempts to return to power by staging a coup within his own party. The coup fails ignominiously and Sanader is cast out of the party that he had presided over for almost a decade, and which he had successfully led to two electoral victories. Months pass and those rumors become fact. Dozens of GOC executives are arrested, including the president of the national power grid operator and the entire board of directors of the national motorways company. Several government ministers find themselves under investigation. Sanader's one-time right hand man, deputy prime minister Damir Polancec, resigns from the government and is promptly arrested. Soon he is sentenced to a year in prison, the highest-ever government official to get a prison sentence - and that sentence will only get longer in the future, as he still awaits trial in the worst corruption cases. Fast forward to last September and Mladen Barisic, the director of Croatian Customs and HDZ treasury chief, who also happens to be Sanader's closest friend and confidant, is arrested. Upon raiding his luxurious penthouse, police find 2.5 million kn (about 350,000 euro) in cash, as well as incalculable amounts in priceless art pieces, expensive watches and fashion items. Barisic becomes sick and collapses during questioning. Omerta is broken, immediately and irrevocably. Barisic and other schmucks tell the prosecutors everything. Immediately on assuming power in 2003, the high-ranking officials of the ruling party set up a massive criminal-corruptive network designed to siphon taxpayer money out of government institutions and GOCs through overinflated contracts with private enterprises. Most of the funds siphoned out that way were pocketed by officials and "private entrepreneurs" involved in the process, though much of them went into a "black fund" that was used to finance the operations of the ruling party (which explained how HDZ was able to outspend everybody in election campaigns by a margin of 400%, and why it suddenly ran out of funds mere months after Sanader's resignation). Party officials literally carried black bags full of money from private companies into the HDZ headquarters. Whenever anybody in the party needed money for anything, Barisic would produce swathes of bills seemingly out of thin air. It is estimated that up to 1.4 billion kn (a little under 200 million euros) of taxpayers' money was stolen that way, and that's just in the cases covered by these few criminal investigation. The total amount of money that was siphoned out of the government and GOCs in this way over these past seven years is inestimable, but likely on the order of tens of billions of euros. And according to Barisic and other (prison-)birdies, capo di tutti capi, the originator and undisputed chief of this criminal enterprise is one man - Dr. Ivo Sanader. No one has any right to be surprised, really. To date no one has ever been able to offer a coherent explanation of the ex-prime minister's substantial wealth, least of all Sanader himself. And the wealth really is substantial - it is known to include a huge mansion in an elite neighborhood in Zagreb, a large apartment in the center of Manhattan (yes, really), a luxury yacht, apartments and houses all over Croatia and Austria, a massive collection of priceless paintings, an even more massive collection of expensive watches (Cartier, Rolex... the real deal) most of which are alone worth tens of thousands of euros... Really, all of this information has been known for years, and the way everyone - and by "everyone" I mean Sanader's former associates and media adulators - is now acting all shocked by the sudden "discovery" of dear Ivo's criminal activities is, quite simply, despicable. Well, fast forward to present day and Sanader is stripped of his immunity as MP at the request of the state attorney. Too late - just hours before the parliament is about to confirm this decision, Sanader flees across the Croatian-Slovenian border in a black Opel Vectra, upon which he boards a flight to London and from there to New York (where he teaches Political Sciences as guest lecturer at the Columbia University, but I digress). No doubt state attorney will by now have issued a warrant for his arrest, though when and if his ass will land in detention will now depend on US willingness to extradite him. In the meantime, there is still more work for the prosecution organs. It is justifiably believed that investigators have only barely scratched the surface of the gigantic heap of illegal dealings involving HDZ officials, and several more government ministers are frequently mentioned in the context of the shameless, massive corruption that has irreparably crippled the Croatian economy and society.