The Anti-Corruption Agency is checking whether the recently arrested Branislav Švonja was in conflict of interests after being appointed Acting Manager of the Provincial Fund for refugees, exiled, and displaced persons.
The Government of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina appointed Švonja to the position of the Fund manager on 27 July 2016. As an official, he was obliged to transfer management of all his private jobs to another person within a month, and notify the Agency thereof.
In the beginning of December 2016, the Provincial Secretariat for Social Policy, Demography and Gender Equality contacted the Agency asking whether they were aware of the fact that Švonja was engaged in other business activities as well. The Secretariat officials also wanted to know whether this presented a conflict of interests pursuant to the Anti-Corruption Agency Act.
In their response from January 2017, the Agency specified that, upon checking the Agency for Business Registers, they found out that, until 7 December 2016, Švonja did serve as a representative of a Novi Sad based company Švonja and that he neither transferred his managing rights after the appointment in the Fund, nor did he notify the Agency of his position as a representative.
In the response mentioned, the Agency quoted Article 33 of the Anti-Corruption Agency Act, according to which an official whose public office demands full time work may not hold management, supervisory or representation office in a private capital company.
Based on a suspicion that Švonja had offended both the aforementioned Article and the Article governing timely transfer of managing rights within a prescribed period, the Agency instituted proceedings against Švonja.
The investigation carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) shows that, while holding a public office, Švonja had occupied the position of manager in three other companies.
Thus he is still the owner of SB company based in Novi Sad, holding the position of its manager until 7 December 2016. This company is the owner of Nacionalna turistička mreža wherein Švonja also occupied the position of a manager until 14 December last year.
Until 26 October 2016, Švonja was the owner of the company Nacionalni privredni operater. He was replaced as the company owner by Slobodan Švonja. One month before, Slobodan had also replaced Branislav as the manager of Nacionalni privredni operater.
The investigation carried out by CINS showed that, in the course of previous years, Nacionalni privredni operater was selling data otherwise freely available on the Internet, to state institutions, local self-government units, and public and private companies throughout Serbia.
Švonja was arrested on Thursday, 9 March, based on a suspicion that, from August 2014 until March 2016, as the owner of Nacionalni privredni operater and in cooperation with another person, he had committed the criminal offence of fraud for extended duration.
Except in the aforementioned companies, Švonja is listed in the Central Register of Business Entities of Montenegro as authorized representative or the owner of three other companies: Telekom štampa, PT Telefonija and Novinatel.
Not even a disclosure report concerning the property was provided by Švonja in due time
Pursuant to the Anti-Corruption Agency Act, within 30 days of appointment an official is obliged to submit to the Agency a disclosure report concerning his property and income.
Švonja submitted such a report as late as in December last year, specifying that he was an owner of three companies – two in Serbia: SB company and Švonja and one in Croatia – Operator za mobilnost u gospodarskom poslovanju, headquartered in Zagreb.
Out of the remaining property, Švonja has reported to the Agency a purchase of a 139 square meters house, 53 acres of tilled fields and a half of a family residential building with a total surface of 554 square meters.
Over many years Švonja has been active in the political life of Croatia and that of Serbia. In Serbia he was the president of Serbian Democratic Party and a representative of the association Union of the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Close to the end of 2015, a valid sentence was pronounced against him for purchase of votes during local elections in the municipality of Odžaci, which is why he had to pay a fine of 200,000 dinars.
The story has been produced 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 EU.