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SNS Call Center: Higher Public Prosecutor's Office Returns Complaint Due to “Lack of Evidence”

23 Jan 2024
Higher Public Prosecutor's Office in Belgrade; photo: N1
CINS's article about SNS’s call center, containing recordings indicating vote-buying, was not enough for the Higher Public Prosecutor's Office to initiate proceedings within its jurisdiction.

Following CINS’s article, opposition MPs filed a criminal complaint regarding SNS’s call center with the First Basic Prosecutor’s Office, which it then forwarded to the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office. Despite falling under the jurisdiction of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office, the complaint regarding the criminal offense of giving and accepting bribes related to voting, was returned to the First Basic Prosecutor’s Office. CINS was informed that neither the basic prosecutor’s office nor the complainants had provided any evidence proving the commission of this offense.

As a reminder, a journalist from the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia witnessed payments for work in the call center, and we also published a video documenting this. The video also shows Milena Marković from M&J Lady handing out the payments for work at the call center and attempting to buy a vote from our journalist in exchange for her work at the call center.

The criminal complaint filed with the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office contains a link to CINS’s article, which also includes the video. Vladimir Tupanjac, a lawyer who formerly worked as an assistant prosecutor in the party financing sector of the Anti-Corruption Agency, says that based on the published video and other allegations in CINS’s article, there were enough grounds for the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the allegations and start collecting data and evidence.

“The failure of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office to act on this criminal complaint and the ignoring of public information creates the impression among the public that our institutions are captured and that prosecutors are just shifting responsibility onto each other.”

Tupanjac also says that by questioning CINS’s journalist, the prosecutor’s office would almost certainly obtain additional information, recordings, data about other persons involved, or individuals with additional knowledge of vote-buying.

“The published video, and what is undoubtedly seen and heard on it, is enough for the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade to interrogate as either witnesses or citizens all the persons involved in these events.”

Immediately after the article was published, CINS asked the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office if they would react, but at the time, they said that the Republic Electoral Commission and the City Electoral Commission have the legal authority and obligation to determine irregularities and illegalities in the election process and to report them.

However, deputy GIK member Vladica Ilić said that election commissions do not have the authority to investigate this case, and that the Prosecution  and the Tax Inspectorate should do so instead.

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