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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Al Ain manager Zoran Mamic says he will appeal four-year prison sentence

Croatian was handed prison sentence alongside his brother and other officials for his role in multi-million-euro abuse of power and graft by a court in Osijek

Zoran Mamic was sentenced to three years and four years and 11 months in jail by a Croatian court on Wednesday. Antonie Robertson / The National
Zoran Mamic was sentenced to three years and four years and 11 months in jail by a Croatian court on Wednesday. Antonie Robertson / The National

Al Ain manager Zoran Mamic says he plans to appeal the prison sentence handed down to him by a Croatian court on Wednesday on charges of tax evasion, insisting it will not interfere with his duties at the Garden City club.

Mamic, along with his brother, Zdravko, and Damir Vrbanovic, a senior official in the Croatian Football Federation (HNS), were handed prison sentences of between three to six-and-a-half years for their involvement in multi-million-euro abuse of power and graft while at Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb. The officials had been charged with tax evasion worth 12.2 million kuna (Dh7 million) and for siphoning off 116 million kuna from transfers of players from the club.

Milan Pernar, a tax official, was jailed for four years and two months. Two other former senior Dinamo officials and a tax official were also jailed for the same offences by a court in Osijek.

Mamic enjoyed a nine-year playing career at Dinamo over two spells and guided the club to three consecutive Croatian First League titles during his three years as a manager from 2013, The 46 year old said in a statement on his official Twitter account that a "long and unjust trial" had ended in an "invalid judgement" and that he would be appealing his sentence of four years and 11 months.

All had denied any wrongdoing and have a right to appeal to a higher court. None was present in court when the verdict was announced. Zdravko Mamic left earlier this week for neighbouring Bosnia.

Mamic, who guided Al Ain to an historic league-and-cup double in the recently concluded season - the first in the club's 50-year history - protested his innocence and said the appeal process would not interfere with his day-to-day management at the Arabian Gulf League club.

"I wish to inform everyone that this invalid judgement does not stop me from doing my job as Al Ain head coach, and that I will continue to work with the same dedication and zeal as always," he added.

"I will lead my team in training sessions, pre-season camp, all friendly and competitive games and, I am sure, achieve many victories and trophies.

"To conclude, I would like to repeat once again that I am completely innocent and I that I will prove that on higher instances."

Two international players - Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren - appeared as witnesses during the trial in Osijek providing details of their transfers from Dinamo. The players' evidence came under official scrutiny.

Croatia captain Modric was charged in March for alleged false testimony over the details of his 2008 transfer from Dinamo to Tottenham Hotspur.

Lovren, questioned over his 2010 transfer from Dinamo to French side Lyon, was also investigated.

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Croatia issued an arrest warrant for Zdravko Mamic, but he told a news conference in Bosnia that he would remain in that country to fight for his innocence.

Zdravko Mamic has dual Croatian and Bosnian citizenship and under Bosnian law he cannot be extradited but he can serve a jail sentence in Bosnia upon Croatian request if the higher court confirms the sentence.

Dinamo are the most successful Croatian club since the country gained independence in 1991, winning 19 championships.

Dinamo voiced "shock and outrage" over the verdict and held their firm belief in the defendants' innocence.

As well as defending the AGL title and President's Cup, Al Ain will also compete in the 2019 Asian Champions League, a tournament they won in 2003, the only UAE club to do so, and the Fifa Club World Cup later this year.