Even though in the pre-election period political parties regularly refer to fight against corruption, the analysis of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) indicates that there is not much difference between candidates of ruling and opposition parties when it comes to observance of the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency.
According to the story published yesterday, the coalition “ALEKSANDAR VUČIĆ – Zato što volimo Beograd!” (ALEKSANDAR VUCIC – Because we love Belgrade) had four of such candidates, while the coalition “IVICA DAČIĆ- Socijalistička partija Srbije (SPS), DRAGAN MARKOVIĆ PALMA – Jedinstvena Srbija” (IVICA DACIC – Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), DRAGAN MARKOVIĆ PALMA – United Serbia (JS)) had five of them.
When it comes to opposition parties, candidates mostly failed to report their property in a timely manner, which is why the Agency issued them the most lenient measure – the measure of reprimand (warning).
The group of citizens “Dragan Đilas – Beograd odlučuјe, ljudi pobeđuјu!” (Dragan Djilas – Belgrade wins, people decide) nominated as future members of the city Assembly five officials against whom the Agency had conducted proceedings. One of the candidates from this list is Dejan Čokić, official from Mladenovac, who was sentenced to eight months of probation in 2015.
The coalition “DA OSLOBODIMO BEOGRAD – Demokratska stranka (DS), Socijaldemokratska stranka (SDS), Nova stranka (NOVA) i Zelena ekološka partija – Zeleni (ZEP – Zeleni)” (TO FREE BELGRADE – Democratic Party (DS), Social Democratic Party (SDS), New Party (NS) and Green Ecological Party – Greens (ZEP – Zeleni)) comprises four candidates who violated the Law on the Agency; the list of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) includes two, while the list “Dosta je bilo i Dveri: Da ovi odu, a da se oni ne vrate” (Dosta je bilo i Dveri: For these to go, and for those not to return) includes one of such candidates.
Only DS and DSS replied to the call and questions of CINS.
In the text below, read which opposition candidates failed to meet their obligations towards the Agency.
Failed dismissal and bar code as the reason for inaccuracy
Dejan Čokić, candidate for Belgrade city Assembly on the list headed by Dragan Đilas
Photo: Dejan Čokić Facebook
In one of its earlier stories, CINS already wrote about Dejan Čokić, former mayor of the municipality of Mladenovac and member of the Democratic Party (DS). Back in 2013, the Agency issued a recommendation that he should be relieved of duty, as it transpired that the company in which he was the co-owner had been selling the municipality fuel for official cars.
The Agency also filed criminal charges against Čokić, as he had failed to report all his property; thus, in 2015, the Basic court in Mladenovac sentenced him to eight months of probation if he does not commit another criminal offence in the period of one year.
Earlier, Čokić said for CINS: “I thought that people of Mladenovac knew, because this is a small town and everybody knows everybody, what I have been through and that I have no real responsibility for the things I have been accused of”.
His colleague from the list “Dragan Đilas – Beograd odlučuјe, ljudi pobeđuјu!” Borko Stefanović, also a former DS member and head of the negotiating team with Priština, received a measure of reprimand from the Agency in 2014. He had failed to inform the Agency that he had ceased to be a member of the Managing board of Dipos, state real estate rental company. For this position, Stefanović was receiving 35,000 Serbian dinars a month in the period from 2008 till the end of January 2012.
As he did not inform the Agency about termination of his function within the legally prescribed deadline of 30 days, the Agency learned about it in the end of August 2012 from a notification from Dipos. The case against Stefanović was launched only in March 2014, when he explained that “the omission was not intentional” and that there were no changes in his property.
The Agency decided to pronounce a measure of reprimand against him for this law violation, with a notification that an unintentional mistake does not acquit one of responsibility.
When CINS journalists asked him to comment on the fact that parties nominated individuals who had been subject of proceedings conducted by the Agency and who had already been pronounced measures, Stefanović said that there is difference between someone hiding their property, and someone who fails to report their property in a timely manner: “It is a different matter when the Government appoints you there and when the same Government replaces you after a while, and nobody tells you what to do when you come or when you leave…”
Borko Stefanović was issued a measure of reprimand by the Agency in 2014
Photo: Facebook Borko Stefanović
Sanda Rašković-Ivić, former DSS president, was issued a measure of reprimand in 2013; a year before, after she had become a member of National Parliament following Parliamentary elections, she was late with filing of her report on property for 160 days.
Rašković-Ivić admitted her inaccuracy; as the reason for the delay she stated that she had actually tried to file the report but that it was returned to her as she had omitted to enter the bar code at the Agency web-site.
The measure of reprimand was pronounced to her with a statement that it could have a „preventive effect on the official so that in future she abides by provisions which regulate her obligations”.
Andreja Milivojević, Council member with Stari grad municipality, was delayed with filing of the report on his property and income for almost two years, which is why the Agency pronounced him a measure of reprimand in the end of November 2015; Zdravko Ponoš, former Head of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, failed to inform the Agency that he had ceased to perform the function of assistant minister for bilateral relations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so he was also issued a measure of reprimand in the end of June 2013.
Officials construed they did not have to file reports
Ljiljana Lučić, current DS member of Serbian National Parliament was also issued a measure of reprimand by the Agency in February 2013, as she filed her report on property and income after 180 days instead within the legally prescribed period of 30 days.
Lučić stepped into the function of a member of National Parliament on 31 May 2012, while the proceedings against her were launched in December of the same year. In her statement to the Agency, she said that she did not believe she had to file the report again with her re-election to the function as there were no changes in her property.
Vojislav Janošević, another candidate of the coalition “DA OSLOBODIMO BEOGRAD – Demokratska stranka (DS), Socijaldemokratska stranka (SDS), Nova stranka (NOVA) i Zelena ekološka partija – Zeleni (ZEP – Zeleni)”, is the former head of the Belgrade city municipality of Surčin. He was issued the measure of reprimand in March 2013 because he had submitted the report on property and income with a delay of 120 days as of the day on which he ceased to perform the function.
In his statement to the Agency, Janošević said that since the change of authorities in Surčin he spent more than 100 days in a village in the vicinity of Krupanj, where he was helping refurbish a rural estate, which is why he “failed to refresh his knowledge of the Law and meet his legal obligation”. He also added that he was not informed about the 30-day deadline in a timely manner, and that his property, in comparison to the previous report, was meanwhile reduced by the amount of €35,000 which he invested in the refurbishment of the said estate.
The Agency suspected data on property, officials acquitted
The Agency also conducted proceedings against some officials who were later acquitted. Thus, in 2012, the Agency filed criminal charges against DS president and former minister of defense Dragan Šutanovac, for suspected concealing of data on property owned by him and his wife. The whole case was known in public as the “pasture scandal”: it was about a flat in a building in the municipality of Vračar which was constructed on a plot registered as the first class pasture.
In August 2017, Šutanovac was legally acquitted of all charges, as the court did not find any evidence of his intention to conceal data on property.
The Agency filed the report on property of former Obrenovac Socialist Party member Dragoslav Mršević in 2013 for suspicion of several criminal offences. For the Belgrade elections, his name is included in the list “Dragan Đilas – Beograd odlučuјe, ljudi pobeđuјu!”.
In the course of control of Mršević’s property, the Agency learned that he had received an interest-free loan of almost €114,000 from an individual from Belgrade who had “business operations outspread at the territory of Obrenovac”; the Agency found this suspicious. The report was filed from the Republic Public prosecutor’s office to the Higher Prosecutor’s office in Belgrade, which, in April 2016, passed the decision to dismiss the criminal charges.
Milo Kovačević, deputy secretary of the Municipal assembly of the municipality of Stari Grad, was issued a measure of reprimand in June 2015, because he was late with filing of the report on property and income for two years, seven months, and 18 days. He filed the report only when the Agency had launched proceedings against him. In his statement, he said that he had reported his property on appointment on his earlier function in 2008, and that his property status had not changed meanwhile; he added that it is “possible that an omission occurred at the Department for assembly affairs and affairs of the Council of the city municipality of Stari Grad, so that the statement was never filed to the Agency”.
Mihajlo Pantić filed the report with a delay of 156 days, and was issued the measure of reprimand in July 2015. In his statement, he said that he was familiar with law, but not with its additional legal interpretation, adding that he found it “absurd to file the report for performing the function of the president of the Managing board of Serbian National library, having in mind that he neither requested nor received any remuneration for that, while investing his knowledge, time, experience, and money”.
In its decision on the measure of reprimand, the Agency stated that the fact that he waived the right to remuneration for performing the function does not relieve him of the obligation to file the report.
DS stated for CINS that in these cases the delay was merely a matter of procedure:
“In the case of the mentioned candidates for members of the local parliament on the list ’Da oslobodimo Beograd’, it is only about technical and procedural delays in filing of the report on property and income, which was rectified immediately after the warning, and the report on property was filed in accordance with law, same as every time, before and later”.
Sources from DS also add that the party is committed to observance and strengthening of independent institutions and that when Vojislav Janošević stepped out of the position of the municipal mayor, he was a victim of media persecution and chasing; at the same time, he was not familiar with his obligation to also file information upon termination of public office, but he did it immediately after the warning.
Other opposition parties
CINS found that candidates of other parties and coalitions also included officials against whom the Agency had conducted proceedings. Thus, Dragoslav Budimirović from the electoral list “Dosta je bilo i Dveri: Da ovi odu, a da se oni ne vrate” received the measure of warning in January 2016 for failure to report property upon termination of his function. The Agency also filed a motion to launch misdemeanor proceedings against the acting director of PUC Obrenovac; according to the data taken from the web-site of the Agency, he was fined with a 20,000 dinars fine.
The DSS list comprises two candidates with the measure of reprimand pronounced: Miloš Jovanović, president of the party, and Đorđe Mamula, former member of Belgrade City Assembly.
In an interview with CINS, Jovanović said that, due to some issues in relations with his party, he did exceed the deadline for filing of the report in 2013 when he returned his mandate to the party and resigned from the function of member of National Parliament, but also that he was never told he had this obligation. Following the measure of reprimand, the Agency filed misdemeanor charges against Jovanović.
“Conducting misdemeanor proceedings automatically with no punishment other than a warning as a result is a waste of time for people and the court”, says Jovanović. “I understand this is a corrupt society, but these are not the best mechanisms to resolve the issue.”
Marko Bastać, candidate for the Belgrade elections on behalf of the Citizen group “Šta radite bre – Marko Bastać” was issued a measure of reprimand by the Agency in December 2012, as he had failed to report his property in a timely manner in his capacity of the mayor of the City municipality of Stari grad.