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SNS Denies Organizing and Financing Work of Call Center

10 Jan 2024
Conversation on "vote buying" with CINS’s journalist; photo: CINS
After Transparency Serbia filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Agency on suspicion that the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) had violated the Criminal Code and the Law on Financing Political Activities by organizing a call center, the party denied these allegations.

In their response to the Agency, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) denied any connection to the hostess agency M&J Lady, responsible for organizing the call center, as well as the non-governmental organization Center for Education and Development of Youth in Belgrade (CEROB), on whose premises payments were made.

SNS says that the party is not the founder of the agency M&J Lady, nor did they have any business collaboration with them. They also mentioned that they did not use their services and that this agency was in no way involved in SNS’s election campaign.

Regarding the photos and video footage published by CINS, taken on CEROB’s premises during the payment of fees to those working at the call center, SNS claimed that there were no party symbols on these premises and that SNS was not the founder of the organization. According to their statement, they have no business collaboration or contract with CEROB.

In the article we published, we also mentioned how the call center’s work was arranged in a special WhatsApp group – CALL CENTER 2023. SNS denied having created or financed the group in their response to the Anti-Corruption Agency, claiming they were not aware of its existence, contents, or who created it.

SNS also stated that there is no evidence that the Serbian Progressive Party “organized and financed the mentioned call center, made any payments, or engaged in any activities prohibited by law”.

The Anti-Corruption Agency also contacted M&J Lady and CEROB in response to this complaint. In their responses, both entities denied any ties with the Serbian Progressive Party.

A CINS journalist was present while payments for work at the call center were being made at this association, and we also published a video documenting this. However, CEROB told the Agency that “the economic entity M&J Lady is not known to them, and they have never had any business collaboration with them”. CEROB also confirmed that no other business entities have used their premises.

In the video published by CINS, Milena Marković from M&J Lady is seen participating in 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. However, the hostess agency stated that they “were not engaged in any of the business activities mentioned in the complaint”.

Based on the responses from the Serbian Progressive Party, CEROB, and the hostess agency M&J Lady, the Anti-Corruption Agency decided not to initiate proceedings against SNS. As stated in the decision published on their website, they do not have evidence that would indisputably establish whether the Law on Financing Political Activities was violated in this specific case.

As a reminder, in early November, a CINS journalist infiltrated SNS’s call center, where over 300 people were engaged without contract. Their task was to call citizens and ask if they would vote for the Serbian Progressive Party in the elections.

According to what we uncovered, a well-organized group was behind this, and the way they operate raises suspicions of vote-buying, funding using “black money”, and potential misuse of citizens’ personal data.

The Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade told CINS at that time that they would not initiate proceedings ex officio; instead, the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) and City Electoral Commission (GIK) have legal authority and an obligation to determine irregularities and illegalities occurring during the electoral process.

Meanwhile, MP candidates from the “Serbia against violence” coalition, Jelena Jerinić and Đorđe Pavićević, filed criminal complaints with the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office against those responsible in this case.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić commented on the work of SNS’s call center for Pink TV, but did not respond to the main findings published by CINS in its investigation.

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