Slobodan Vukić was in coma for two weeks. In the beginning of 2016, he succumbed to injuries he had sustained in a fight in a Belgrade club Tilt. The circumstances of his death have not been fully clarified yet.In his statement to the prosecution, Vukić’s friend Miroslav Basta said that they had had quite a lot to drink that night, and that they were approached by security workers after they had inadvertently spilled drinks from several glasses. He explained that he had started off towards the exit, and asked the security to take Vukić out.
When he was close to the exit, he says, he turned back and noticed that Vukić had already had injuries on his face, and that he had a nose bleed. They were followed out by security workers, one of whom kicked Vukić in the stomach.
The parking lot in front of the Tilt club, where the conflict between Vukić and the security took place (Photo: CINS)
The police interviewed Milovan Tadić who was suspected of having inflicted grave bodily harm. He was released having given a statement.
The investigation of the case is currently conducted by the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade. In the same building, in the premises of the Higher Court, a trial is conducted against persons who participated in the attack which ended in the death of Fedor Frimerman. Security of the Sound club was charged with beating Frimerman and his friends up in July 2013.
Frimerman died several months before, while Vukić died two years after the passing of the Law on private security which was aimed at professionalization of this area, primarily through training and licensing of companies and employees. Adequate preparation was to prevent use of excessive force by persons many of whom train martial arts and may inflict severe injuries.
However, in Serbia there are still no records of all private security companies or employees. In public, the number of some 40,000 employees is frequently mentioned. From the passing of the Law to the end of January 2016, only 136 employees and two companies were licensed.
Research conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) indicates that the deadline for licensing – 1 January 2017 – will be difficult to meet due to deadline shifting, late establishment of the examining body, the unresolved manner of testing employees outside Belgrade, and the unregulated issue of financing.
Representatives of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) refused to talk with CINS journalists on this topic.
Issues with licenses
Serbian Parliament adopted the Law on private security in November 2013 – till that time, there had been no regulations to determine the rules such companies and individuals should abide by. CINS already wrote about shortcomings of the law at that time.
One of major issues was related to the absence of by-laws which would facilitate full enforcement of the Law. Thus, the majority of by-laws were not adopted by May 2014, while the first training term was rescheduled from 5 June 2015 to January 2017.
Nebojša Stefanović, Minister of Interior, said during the Parliamentary debate on adoption of the Law that he expected that licensing would be completed before expiration of the new deadline.
Some organizations which monitor this area, such as Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), did not agree with him then.
Predrag Petrović, BCSP executive director, says that if a significantly large number of people were to be licensed in a short period of time, it would mean that something is wrong. (Photo: BCSP)
“With the number of people that should get licensed, it would be realistic that licensing is completed only in 2018”, says Predrag Petrović, BCSP executive director.
Licensing comprises several segments. The MoI first issues licenses to training centres, in line with their areas of expertise. Thus, training in first aid administering may be performed only by persons with high medical education of Red Cross trainers, while training in use of physical strength – self-defense is conducted by sport coaches.
After training, employees take a professional examination before the examination board established by the MoI and are subjected to a security check. If they pass all tests with success, they get a license. A private security company may be issued a license only if a certain number of its employees have been licensed, which depends on the type of license they want.
The first licenses for training centres were issued in February 2015. By the end of January this year, there were 63 legal entities of the kind, with 21 more branches which were also licensed. However, according to MoI data, only 11 centres registered their trainees for the exam. By February 2016, 489 candidates passed the exam, while the MoI issued 136 licenses.
CINS journalists talked to representatives of more than 30 centres, most of which have only just started, or which have not started training programmes yet. The reasons given include poor interest on part of employees, high prices, delayed passing of by-laws, as well as numerous other imponderables which accompanied the process. In opinion of many, at the moment it is not possible to meet these deadlines.
Except for this, some security workers did complete training but have not been issued licenses or taken the exam at the MoI yet. The examination board which tests knowledge and physical fitness is based in Belgrade and has not done any field work yet, which presents an issue for people who reside in other towns.
Andrija Mumović from Bodyguard Centre in Sremska Kamenica, which is licensed to train candidates, says that it would be considerably cheaper and easier for candidates if the examination board did field work, at least in larger towns.
Lengthy and expensive training
The period from the beginning of training till the moment of obtaining a license may last for up to three months. Candidates decide whether they would be trained in risk assessment, physical, or technical protection. Physical security trainees need to attend 101 classes which means that training may not last for less than 17 days. Training was planned in groups of 15-40 trainees.
Every now and then, some security beats someone up, thrashes someone, or kills someone. You establish that this is actually not security, that these are just some guys doing these jobs.
Professor Branislav Simonović from Kragujevac Law School Security Centre, which is licensed to train employees, says that observance of deadlines was not sufficiently insisted on.
“It is easy to calculate that it is not possible that all these people get licenses by the end of this year”, says Simonović.
Predrag Petrović from BCCP explains that training was conceived with an ambitious curriculum, where no one is supposed not to attend, and that, as all these people are already employed, “it is difficult to believe that a significant number of people will complete training.”
The poor interest in licensing is partly due to high costs – the price of training, exam, and license fee amounts to between 20,000 and 40,000 dinars. Representatives of training centres say that the actual amount depends on the size of the group, but also on whether they train own or someone else’s employees.
Companies such as GM Security decided to obtain license for training so as to train their employees. As they say, this move is most cost-effective for them, having the price in mind.
“I got the license mostly because of my people, so I do not think I will be doing it for other entities… not only that the income is small, the responsibilities in relation to training of those people are also considerable”, explained Milan Stojadinović, owner of the company.
According to the Law on labour, the employer is obliged to provide professional training for employees, but companies dealing with security do not agree with this, due to significant costs, as well as the likelihood of trained employees leaving and starting working for another agency. However, the Law on labour provides the possibility of employees paying such training by themselves.
Who are the guys in Security tee-shirts?
Having in mind that licensing has still not been completed, the trend of employing people of different profiles as security, frequently with criminal past and aptitude for violence, continues. So far, the fact that security companies sometimes register only several employees while others work illegitimately has been recognized as another issue.
Max BS Team is a little known company in the area of private security. Its employees got in public focus in 2013 due to the incident which took place in front of boat-restaurant Sound, when Fedor Frimerman lost his life.
Out of some 20 people who took part in the fight, four company employees were indicted – Denis Pavlov, Negomir Urošević, Dušan Davidović and Dejan Mihajlović. Mihajlović, who was deemed the “head of security” by the others, is out on pretrial release, and, according to the statement given to the court panel, is currently unemployed. The other three defendants have been in custody since July 2013.
One of the defendants, Davidović, had already received a suspended sentence for having incurred grave bodily harm to his former neighbour. At the trial, defendants Pavlov and Mihajlović explained that they had secured different facilities, from the Military Medical Academy to boat restaurants, for years.
Saša Bucalo, owner of Max BS Team, told CINS journalists that the participants in the incident worked for him, even though they were not all registered according to the data from the business register. Bucalo has never been interviewed or prosecuted, and his company Max BS Team still operates.
The trial for this case, held before the Higher Court in Belgrade, is finally drawing to a close, after more than two years and several retrials due to changes in the composition of the court panel. The procedure was additionally slowed down due to irregularities such as absence of experts or postponement of the beginning of the trial as wrong experts were summoned to testify on the matter.
Similarities in Frimerman and Vukić cases are numerous – except for having a lethal outcome, participants in the incidents were members of security companies whose working conditions are unfamiliar as well as whether they would pass the licensing process successfully.
Family and friends light candles in front of the boat-club Sound where Fedor Frimerman was killed (Photo: svismomifedor.rs)
Defending themselves, defendants in the Frimerman case say that the score of people who beat Frimerman and his friends up also included members of security of the boat-restaurant Freestyler. Club Tilt, in which the fight after which Vukić died took place, is actually the winter club Freestyler – as the practice of relocating clubs and boat-restaurants from the river in winter is quite usual in Belgrade.
Due to the Vukić case, the police also brought in Milovan Tadić, who, as CINS journalists established, is employed as security of the Radio-Television of Serbia building.
Vladimir Šoškić, lawyer, confirmed in the interview with CINS journalists that his defendant Tadić did work as security at Tilt that night, but that further discussion on that issue could jeopardize the investigation. He adds that there are video recordings which will show what really happened.
Representatives of the club Tilt refused to talk to CINS journalists while the investigation is still on.
Mladen Kuribak, former head of police and currently the owner of Edukator MK training centre, says that the area of private security is still rather unregulated, and that employees comprise waiters, welders, people who had never been in this walk of life, but who are given authority.
“Every now and then, some security beats someone up, thrashes someone, or kills someone. You establish that this is actually not security, that these are just some guys doing these jobs”, adds Kuribak.
Bojana Bosanac also took part in the research.
The story has been produced within the institutional support to the coalition prEUgovor by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway and under an EU funded grant, awarded in the Media Programme 2014. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union or the Norwegian Embassy.