Bosnia and Herzegovina – New corruption charges seen as an indictment of BiH politics

from (Southeast Europe)..

May 14, 2013, By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo

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The recent arrest of 57 people on corruption and organised crime charges, including FBiH Deputy Prime Minister Jerko Ivankovic-Lijanovic, is indicative of the deep-rooted corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) politics, experts said.

“These investigations represent strong evidence that corruption is deeply rooted in the official policy of BiH and has an unbreakable bond with politicians,” Ivana Korajlic, spokeswoman for Transparency International of BiH, told SETimes. “Also we can conclude that the decisions at the highest levels of government are politically motivated to serve only several number of people.

“It is good that the judiciary is conducting these cases, but I am afraid that the investigations also have a political motive, because of the struggle of political parties in Federation and chaotic political condition in that entity,” Korajlic said.

Police in FBiH filed charges May 10th against 57 people, including Ivankovic-Lijanovic, the vice-president of the People’s Party Work for Progress (NSRzB), which is one of the ruling parties in the Federation of BiH’s (FBiH) entity government. FBiH is the Bosniak-Croat entity of BiH.

According to a police statement released to SETimes, Ivankovic-Lijanovic is accused of using his government position to amend laws that allowed him and his supporters to issue agricultural incentives in exchange for votes in the 2010 election.

Ivankovic-Lijanovic denied the allegation.

“I hope this is not a continuation of politically motivated and engineered indictments,” he said in a statement. “Everything we’ve done in the ministry, we have done in compliance with the legislation. All laws have been respected and all decisions were transparently implemented. Let me just remind the public once again that I support the work of all institutions in this country that are working on the identification and sanctioning of those who abused the incentives in agriculture.”

Ivankovic-Lijanovic also faces criminal charges filed by Hypo Alpe Adria Bank of BiH, which accuses him and others for an alleged corruption scheme that it says cost the bank more than 30 million euros.

The bank alleges that Ivankovic-Lijanovic fraudulently obtained credit for his enterprise “Lijanovic” that deals with the sale of meat and meat products.

“We found that loans [for] which [the] collection has become very problematic, were marketed from 2005 to 2008 year. This is one of the biggest cases of suspicious loans that we have,” bank spokeswoman Ana Jurkovic told SETimes. “Therefore, we forwarded the charge … to BiH’s prosecutor’s office at the end of April.”

Last week’s corruption charge was filed two weeks after the State Investigation and Protection Agency of BiH arrested 19 people on April 27th, including FBiH’s President Zivko Budimir, due to corruption and abuse of power.

Budimir’s newly formed party, the Party of Justice and Trust, as well as the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), has called the arrest politically motivated. They maintain that the aim of the whole process is the reconstruction of the FBiH’s government, which Budimir has tried to block.

The ruling Social Democrats (SDP) dismiss such claims, hailing the arrest as a milestone in the fight against the corruption.

The parliamentary majority, led by the SDP, has been trying for almost a year to dismiss ministers from the Lijanovic’s NSRzB party and two other former coalition partners (SDA and Budimir’s party), but has so far failed to do because the three parties have used a series of legal strategies based on the constitution to resist the moves.

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