Serbian police arrest 53 people on corruption charges including civil servants

The Serbian police on Wednesday arrested 53 persons as part of an “action to prevent and suppress financial crime and corruption.”

Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic announced the arrests, adding that criminal complaints have been filed against 25 others suspected of committing a variety of criminal acts, “especially related to abuse of power in state services.”

“It is estimated that starting in 2005 until today these persons caused damage worth over EUR 10 million to the Serbian budget, the budget of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, local self-governments and other economic subjects,” the Interior Ministry (MUP) said in a statement.

Stefanovic explained that those detained include inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture, employees of the Lasta transportation company, members of the managing board of the Zemun Veterinary Institute, as well as 13 police employees in charge of vehicle registration, and “executives in public utilities companies.”

Stefanovic said that the arrests proved the state’s determination to deal with all forms of crime and corruption and that those guilty “will not be protected by their position, political affiliation or the office they hold.”

The move comes two days after Serbia opened two new chapters in accession negotiations with the European Union, which has called on the Balkan country to do more to tackle corruption.

The latest EU progress report on Serbia said the “serious” problem remained prevalent in many areas and that the “anti-corruption effort has yet to yield meaningful results”.

Although the government has carried out similar anti-corruption sweeps in recent years, its critics say the multiple arrests have failed to target any of the country’s biggest offenders.

Police arrested 46 people, including 16 traffic policemen, in March last year, a few weeks before a parliamentary election.

(B92, Daily Star, 01.03.2017)

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