In 2017, the Anti-corruption Agency initiated extraordinary control of property and income of 14 officials, including Siniša Mali, the Mayor of Belgrade. The control is still underway.
In past, Siniša Mali made a series of omissions in the course of property reporting, but he was only issued the most lenient punishment by the Agency – the measure of reprimand, which is practically a written warning.
Mali was pronounced the measure of reprimand for having failed to report that he had transferred managerial rights in the company of his own; for having delayed to file of the report on property and income after he had been appointed as a member of the Managing board of the Clinical Centre of Serbia; and for having filed incorrect and incomplete data on property.
The Agency’s reply to the Center for investigative journalism of Serbia (CINS) journalist states that there is no legal possibility for an official who was once pronounced the measure of reprimand “to be pronounced a more severe measure within the second procedure for determination of whether the Law on Agency was violated, that is, the measure of publishing the recommendation for relieving of the official from duty or the measure of publishing the decision on infringement.”
Sources from the Agency add that this is why the Draft of the new Law on the Agency stipulates that in such cases it is possible to pronounce a more severe punishment, such as the recommendation for relieving of officials from duty. Adoption of the new law is by more than three years late.
“The fact that the Anti-corruption Agency pronounced as many as three measures of reprimand to the same official truly sounds illogical, as each of these measures is a request for him not to violate law in future”, says Nemanja Nenadić, programme director of the organization Transparency Serbia.
Nenadić leaves the opportunity that in this case it is possible to believe that Mali’s omissions are accidental or a result of negligence, but also says that the Agency was to justify pronouncing the same measure three times.
Even though Mali had already been reprimanded twice, when pronouncing the third measure of reprimand, the Agency concluded that he had no intention of concealing his property.
Criminal charges without previous reprimand
The issue of proving intent is one of the key issues with numerous criminal charges which the Anti-corruption agency filed to prosecutors’ offices since 2010; the charges would then be dropped, as in the course of investigation it would come to the conclusions that the officials did not make the omission intentionally.
The Agency thus filed criminal charges against Čedomir Jovanović, leader of the Liberal-democratic party, as he had failed to include in his report all income he and his wife had earned in the course of 2009 and 2010.
In his case, the Agency did not pronounce the measure of reprimand so as to give Jovanović an opportunity to rectify the omission, but filed criminal charges at once. The prosecution later dropped the charges because of the issue of proving intent to conceal assets.
Because of suspected deliberate failure to report income and assets or providing of false data, in the course of 2010 the Agency filed 63 criminal charges against official throughout Serbia. This was not done in the case of Mali. The criminal offence of “failure to report assets or submission of false data on assets” is subject to prescribed sentence of six months to five years of imprisonment.
However, in 2015 the Agency did file charges against Miljana Golubović, teacher of philosophy and sociology. She failed to report decreased income in a timely manner upon termination of her function of Bor Municipal council member, for which she had been receiving 12,000 dinars a month.
Unlike Mali who was three times only issued the measure of reprimand, which was not published anywhere, Golubović paid the fine of 40,000 dinars, which was almost the total of her monthly salary.
In the course of 2015, having performed control of data on Mali’s property in Serbia and abroad, the Agency filed the report to the Tax administration. The Agency files reports of this type when suspecting violations of law which surpass its competence.
When asked by CINS how far this case has gone, the Tax administration refused to answer, because, as they stated in an official letter, data on “taxpayers obtained in tax, misdemeanor, pre-investigative, or investigative proceedings are deemed and kept as classified.”
In 2016, the Agency filed a report on Siniša Mali to The Higher prosecutor’s office in Belgrade for suspected money laundering. The prosecutor’s office concluded that there were no elements of criminal offences from their competence, but that there were elements of the criminal offence of failure to report assets and income according to the Law on Agency. This is why the case was transferred to the First Basic public prosecutor’s office.
(Un)reported managerial rights
By the Decision of Serbian Government from 24 January 2013, Siniša Mali was appointed member of the Manaing board of the Clinical centre of Serbia. At that time, he was the sole owner of the Belgrade-based company Oli consulting.
According to the Law on the Agency, this placed Mali on the list of officials who would be obliged to transfer their managerial rights in private companies to an unrelated natural or legal entity within 30 days as of the appointment to a function.
Mali fulfilled this obligation one week later, by transferring his managerial rights to Igor Isailović, lawyer from the legal office “Isailović & Partners“.
The transfer of the company to the lawyer was registered in the Agency for business registers on 25 February; however, Mali never informed the Agency to that extent, even though he was obliged to do so within the period of five days.
Because of this omission, a year and a half later, in mid-June 2014, the Agency issued the measure of reprimand against him with the following statement:
“Siniša Mali, member of the Managing board of the Clinical centre of Serbia, is hereby made obliged to, further on, when performing public functions, abide by the Law on the Agency which regulates obligations of officials in every respect.”
271 days for the report on property
Having pronounced the measure of reprimand against Siniša Mali in June 2014, the Agency issued another identical measure against him a month later.
This time, Mali violated the provision of the Law which stipulates that all public officials are obliged to submit a report on their property and income within 30 days as of their appointment at the function. Having in mind that Mali was appointed at the position of a member of the Managing board of Clinical Centre of Serbia in the end of January 2013, his deadline for filing the report to the Agency would be until the end of February.
However, Mali was late with the report for 271 days, and sent it on 23 November 2013. The Agency requested his statement of the matter only in May 2014.
Delayed law amendments
Even though the new Draft law on the Agency was completed back in autumn 2016, Nela Kuburović, Minister of justice, announced that it could finally be adopted until the end of this year.
Passing of the improved Law on the Agency was envisaged through a number of strategic documents: National anti-corruption strategy for the period 2013 – 2018, Action plan for implementation of the Strategy, and Action plan for Chapter 23 in pre-accession negotiations for membership in the European Union. Adoption of the Law is delayed, as CINS reported on several occasions.
In the 2016 Progress Report for Serbia, the European Commission established significant delay with amendments of the Law, and reiterated its statement from the previous year – that it is necessary that Serbia adopt the new Law on the Agency fast, “with the aim to strengthen its role as the key institution for more efficient fight against corruption“.
Mali stated that he had not submitted the report because, from the moment of his appointment to April 2013, he had not been receiving 43.845 dinars a month, as was envisaged; that he heard that the decision to that extent was passed at the session in March which he did not attend; and that he officially learned that the decision on remuneration for Managing board members was passed only in May.
He added that he had neither reason nor intention not to file the report, that the law is very inaccurate in terms of the obligation to file the report, and that, having in mind the intention of the Law on the Agency, essence should be prevailing over form. He also quoted paragraph 2 of Article 45 of the Law on the Agency, believing that this paragraph “envisages an exception in case no remuneration for the stated function is paid”.
The Agency found that unfamiliarity with law is not a justified reason for failure to fulfill legally prescribed obligations and highlighted that the sense of paragraph 2, Article 45 was exactly the opposite, i.e. that the “official who is a member of a Managing or Supervisory board of a public company, institution, or any other organization who the Republic, Autonomous Province, or the City of Belgrade is member of “ is obliged to file the report, even if not receiving any remuneration for his/her work.
In justification of its decision, the Agency stated that, when taking the decision, it found that the measure of reprimand “may have preventive effect on the official so that, in future, he abides by the regulations regulating his obligations”.
Incorrect data in delayed reporting
Despite two reprimands of the Agency issued for law violation and the request to act more responsibly in terms of his obligations in future, a new, third measure of reprimand against Mali followed as soon as in May 2015.
The Agency found a range of omissions in Mali’s first report on property and income from 2013, the delayed filing of which he had already been reprimanded for once. The Agency also found irregularities and delay in the report for 2014.
Extraordinary controls in 2017
– Živorad Petrović, Mayor of Bor
– Radomir Dmitrović, Executive Manager of publishing company Kompanija Novosti
– Dejan Milanović , acting director of Primary healthcare centre Gračanica
– Siniša Mali, Mayor of the City of Belgrade
– Saša Vlaisavljević, acting general manager of the airport Aerodrom Nikola Tesla a.d. Beograd
– Stevan Dželatović, acting manager of the public company for underground exploitation of coal Resavica, Despotovac
– Đuro Đurović, principal of High school of business, Belgrade
– Sead Ljajić, principal of the School of economy and trade from Novi Pazar
– Tomislav Nikolić, former President of the Republic of Serbia
– Vladimir Jelić, member of Novi Sad council
– Čedomir Jovanović, Member of Parliament
– Biljana Vragović, secretary of the Municipal assembly of Alibunar
– Aleksandra Tomić, judge of the Basic court in Surdulica
– Marko Janković, director of PUC Parking servis Niš
Mali reported that he and his former wife were owners or co-owners or several facilities in several cadastral municipalities which he had purchased in the period between 2003 and 2013 with a delay of 298 days.
Besides the fact that he had never reported certain pieces of property, the Agency found that data for those he had enlisted in his report for 2013 were not correct, but that the omissions were rectified with the delay of 447 days.
Thus, floor areas did not match; he failed to report that he also owned a garage in the same building; that he and his wife had bank accounts with funds on them; and that he owned a gun.
The Agency discovered those omissions having compared completeness of the data from the four reports on property Mali had submitted before October 2014.
In his statement, Mali said that he and his assistant had taken all actions to “present all property and rectify the original technical errors and omissions made by the proxy appointed on the occasion of submitting of the report“.
Mali stated that an unintentional error was made when entering the floor area of the real estate, while in the case of one flat, the floor area differed by seven square meters, because the data from the contract did not match the data from subsequent technical inspection, “which is a frequent phenomenon”.
In relation to the gun which he had failed to report, Mali stated that the intention of the legislator was not that weapons should be reported, especially weapons of minor financial value, and that the gun was registered in the register of the Ministry of the Interior.
The Agency concluded that it was established beyond any doubt that Mali had failed to provide correct and complete data, and that he was also delayed with the filing of the report. Besides this, the Agency stated that even though there was no intention to conceal property, this should not exclude his responsibility. Mali was pronounced a measure of reprimand in this case as well, because, in the opinion of the Agency, it may have preventive effect on him so that he abides by regulations in future.
The story was produced within the project “Supervision of public policies: prEUgovor covers reforms in Chapter 23 and Chapter 24” supported by the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.