ZAGREB, Croatia — A court in Croatia convicted a former prime minister of corruption and sentenced him Friday to eight years in prison for funneling state money through an advertising agency for personal gain and to benefit his former party.

The Country Court in Zagreb ruled that Ivo Sanader created a group to perform criminal activities which acted upon his instructions. The 67-year-old served as Croatia's prime minister from 2003 to 2009.

The verdict and sentence came in Sanader's retrial in the corruption case. His previous conviction was overturned on procedural grounds.

Sanader has denied the allegations and is set to appeal again. He did not attend Friday's court proceedings.

Two associates also were convicted Friday and received prison sentences of up two years and ten months. His former party, the conservative Croatian Democratic Union currently governing Croatia, was fined 3.5 million kuna (462,000 euros; $546,000) and ordered to return some 14 million kuna (1.8 million euros; $2.2 million).

The so-called Fimi Media case has become a symbol of party and state corruption in Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013 after going through a war in the 1990s in the Balkans.

Sanader is the highest-ranking official tried for graft in Croatia. He has faced several indictments and lengthy proceedings in multiple cases.