The Serbian Finance Ministry’s Money Laundering Prevention Department has drawn up a list of media employees and NGOs whose bank records it wants to check.
The Department is demanding access to the bank records over the past year to determine whether these NGOs and individuals are connected to money laundering or operations to finance terrorism, it said.
The Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CINS), Branko Cecen, who is on the list, said that the demand for checking bank records of institutions that are critical of state authorities constitutes abuse.
“The Money Laundering Department is checking if I am laundering money… In a country where crime is flourishing, a country in which (organized crime boss and drug trafficker) Darko Saric has invested at least a billion euros and the Department never said a word. The Finance Minister has 24 apartments in Bulgaria. What are 24 apartments in Bulgaria but money laundering? And now, on top of it all, they are checking on me… I mean, they’ll die laughing when they see the balance of my bank account,” Cecen said.
Serbia’s opposition Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) demanded on Tuesday that the authorities present evidence based on which they started a show-down with dozens of people from NGOs and media whose bank accounts were to be checked based on the Law on Preventing Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, the Beta news agency reported.
SSP said that the demand came from the authorities which the Freedom House report described as a hybrid regime and the Institute from Basel said was the most corrupted state in Europe.
The Party added, “the only aim of the current authorities was to criminalise all those who reported about the ever-worsening situation in Serbia to the international public and to brand them as traitors and foreign mercenaries.”
Tanja Fajon, an MEP and the co-chairman of the European Parliament (EP) Delegation for cooperation with Serbia, tweeted on Tuesday that any unjustified probe into the work of NGOs, media and individuals should be considered as a pressure.
Fajon wrote that the majority of them were among the strongest supporters of the pro-European Union reforms and the EU values in Serbia.
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Zoran Gavrliovic of the BIRODI added that the move aimed at “branding the part of the society which the regime sees as critical and which can influence the social processes in Serbia.”
UNS President Vladimir Radomanovic said he expected the Finance Minister Sinisa Mali and the Department’s Director to urgently inform the public about what their investigation was based on.
The organizations, media outlets and NGO are being investigated by the authorities include NUNS, UNS, CINS, BIRN, KRIK, CRTA, Association of Local and Independent Media, Novi Sad School of Journalism. European Movement in Serbia, Humanitarian Law Center, Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, Civic Initiatives, Vojvodina Civic Center, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI), Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights (Yukom), Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS), Center for international cooperation and sustainable development, Center for the Rule of Law, Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, LIBEK, CANVAS, National Coalition for Decentralization, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights …
The following individuals are also being investigated – journalists Slobodan Georgiev, Biljana Stepanović, Branko Čečen, and Vukašin Obradović, as well as politician Vuk Jeremić, director Andrej Nosov, Jelena Milić from CEAS, lawyer Ivan Ninić …
(N1, Nova Ekonomija, 28.07.2020)
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