Court documents obtained by journalists of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) show that one of the assailants on Partizan Football Club director Miloš Vazura and his bodyguards, Veljko Belivuk also known as Velja, had a previous legally binding conviction for inflicting grave bodily injuries.
According to the first indictment brought in October 2007, Belivuk attacked two minors in front of Belgrade floating bar BlayWatch, where he worked as the head of security. Belgrade District Public Prosecutor’s Office charged him in 2008 with an attempted murder and illegal possession of arms.
Seven years on, in September 2015, after the eyewitnesses had previously changed their testimonies, indictment was amended from attempted murder of two young men to infliction of bodily injuries on Bojan M.
In November the same year, the Higher Court in Belgrade dismissed the charge of illegal possession of arms due to a lapse of the statute of limitations. Nonetheless, Belivuk was sentenced for infliction of grave bodily injuries to 5 months and 15 days’ imprisonment, which was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeals in Belgrade. When time spent in custody was taken into account, this meant he had served his entire sentence.
Legally binding sentence had been issued a little more than a month before he attacked Miloš Vazura and his bodyguards in front of the Partizan stadium. Except for Belivuk, other suspected assailants are Darko Ristić also known as Meda and Aleksandar Stanković, better known as Sale Mutavi.
CCTV cameras captured the attack on the 28th of April. Thanks to the CCTV footage, members of the public could see for themselves brutality of the attackers. The video showed Belivuk dealing the first blow to Vazura’s bodyguard Božo Kumburović, at which point Ristić joined in the scuffle. They knocked Kumburović down to the ground and kicked him in the head. Vazura managed to flee back to club’s premises whilst they continued kicking Kumburović as he was trying to get up.
According to a statement of interior minister Nebojša Stefanović, the police were looking for the attackers for ten days. However, suspects’ initials were not revealed for days. Disclosure of suspects’ initials is a customary practice of the interior ministry which typically reveals them in its press releases.
The First Basic Prosecutor’s Office brought criminal charges against three suspects, and the First Basic Court remanded Belivuk and Ristić in custody for thirty days. Stanković was not remanded in custody, and the media reported that he also had previous convictions.
Changes to Witnesses’ Testimonies: From Attempted Murder to Grave Injuries
In October 2007, the then underaged Bojan M. and Darko D. were part of a group of friends who wanted to celebrate a birthday party at BlayWatch floating club. Security guards at the entrance prevented them from entering the club which led to an argument. Heated verbal exchange turned into a nightmare when a violent scuffle broke out between the bouncers and the guests as part of which a shooting also took place. A young man was wounded in his thigh.
District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade brought charges against Veljko Belivuk, the then head of security at the BlayWatch club. That night Belivuk was at the floating club, though, according to his own and other security guards’ statements, he was not on duty.
The Prosecutor’s Office first charged him with having hit Bojan M. with a pistol on the head, knocking him down and repeatedly hitting him with a metal bar stool, after which he shot at Darko D. and wounded him.
In his defence argument, Belivuk said he found out about the incident in the press a couple of days later as he allegedly had left the floating club immediately before the brawl and set out for town Ćuprija where he also worked as the head of security. He was allegedly working as the head of security in various places throughout Serbia although he also said he had landed his first job only six months earlier as a security guard at the Mistik club after which he went over to BlayWatch.
Belivuk contacted the police several days after the incident when his brother told him police officers were looking for him at his apartment. On 11December 2007, he was remanded in one-month custody, but he was also in custody from 18 September 2008 until 29 January 2009.
His statement in court was inconsistent with the statements given by other witnesses. Several of them, including the injured parties, Bojan and Darko, identified precisely Belivuk as a person holding a gun, beating them with a metal stool and a pistol butt, and then shooting.
In his first statement to the police, given immediately after the incident, a security guard who was searching the guests at the entrance was 100% sure that Belivuk was the shooter. However, in December he altered his testimony and said he recognised Belivuk, but not as a shooter. He allegedly gave the first statement under duress as the police threatened him they ‘would get either Belivuk or him as a person who fired the shot’.
According to the indictment, the young men also subsequently changed their statements. The original testimony was that Belivuk was the shooter, but then they changed it to having seen nothing as they were knocked unconscious.
Finally, this case reached its conclusion more than seven years later when Belivuk was sentenced to five months and 15 days’ imprisonment, which he had almost already served having been in custody earlier. In the explanation of its ruling, the court maintained that the extenuating circumstance for Belivuk of having no prior convictions was taken into account.
For years CINS has been investigating the private security sector in Serbia. Database of assaults on citizens shows that severe beatings most often take place at floating and night clubs, and at times with a fatal outcome. Most cases never reach a court of law or result in lenient sentences.
CINS latest investigation shows that there are no official records in Serbia of all the private security companies and their employees. A figure of about 40,000 workers in this sector is most often circulated in public, but the licensing procedure, which should resolve many problems, has been stalled and deadlines will probably be missed again.