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Criminal Complaint Filed Following CINS’s Call Center Article

04 Dec 2023
Conversation on "vote buying" with CINS’s journalist; photo: CINS
After CINS revealed how the Serbian Progressive Party’s call center operates, raising suspicions of possible vote buying and misuse of citizens' personal data, MP candidates from the "Serbia against violence" coalition Jelena Jerinić and Đorđe Pavićević filed criminal complaints against those responsible.

The complaint was submitted to the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade against Milena and Jelena Marković, twins who run the hostess agency M&J Lady, Miloš Vučević as the legal representative of SNS, as well as Stefan Milić and Ognjen Kočević from the association CEROB, where daily wages are paid out.

In addition to them, a criminal complaint was also filed against unknown persons from the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government, as well as an unspecified number of municipal and city administrations, that is, against those responsible for updating the voter list.

All of them, according to the criminal complaint, which journalists of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) had access to, are suspected of having damaged the state budget in the amount of millions and committed (in complicity) the following criminal offenses:

  • unauthorized collection of personal data (personal data of citizens were collected and processed at the call center without their consent)
  • violation of equality (the condition for working at the call center was to vote for the Serbian Progressive Party)
  • avoidance of withholding tax (daily wages for working at the call center were paid cash-in-hand)
  • giving and accepting bribes in connection with voting, colloquially known as “vote buying” (a condition for working at a call center on election day is to vote for SNS and to take a photo of the ballot)

Pavićević told CINS that they don’t expect the complaint to yield any results, at least until the election, but that they want it to be documented who did what during the election process.

The complaint lists CINS’s article as a source of information, and it has been suggested to the prosecution to have our journalist, who was briefly part of this system, be a witness in the case.

As a reminder, after the article was published, the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office said that it was waiting on election commissions to potentially identify irregularities and inform them about it. On the other hand, deputy member of the City Election Commission Vladica Ilić said that electoral commissions do not have the authority to investigate this case, and that the prosecution and Tax Inspectorate should react.

“Under normal circumstances and in a country where the prosecutor’s office actually does its job, it would have already checked what is underneath the surface instead of waiting for us to do it all,” Ilić told CINS.

In addition, Nemanja Nenadić from Transparency Serbia believes that our article is reason enough for the prosecution to launch an investigation.

CINS published an article last week revealing how the Serbian Progressive Party’s call center near the Port of Belgrade operates. More than 100 people call citizens every day and ask them if they will vote for this party in the upcoming elections.

CINS’s journalist was briefly part of this group and was offered what we colloquially call “vote buying” on two occasions. In addition, our investigation also pointed to potential abuses when it comes to personal data protection.

Click here to read more about the reactions of relevant institutions, as well as Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić.

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