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News 20 Sep 13

Dacic Sacks Belgrade Police Chief

As tensions in Serbia’s police escalate, the police chief in the capital was dismissed over accusations of unprofessionalism and blocking corruption investigations.

BIRN
Belgrade

Ivica Dacic, Serbian interior minister, dismissed Stevan Bijelic, Belgrade’s police chief, on September 19.

Milorad Veljovic, director of the Serbian police, officially sought the dismissal of the chief of the Belgrade police, on September 17.

Veljovic accused Bijelic of unprofessionalism and of obstructing several corruption investigations, including those into the public pharmaceutical company, Galenika, and the Kolubara mine.

“Bijelic showed no interest in these investigations and… these cases only moved forward when they were transferred from the Belgrade police to the Criminal Police Directorate,” Veljovic said.

He also accused Bijelic of nepotism in the Belgrade police, saying it had blocked the normal work of the department.

Bijelic has not responded directly to Veljovic’s accusations, stating only that, “there will be enough time to dispose of the background to this”.

A few days earlier, in a newspaper interview, Bijelic said he held Veljovic partly responsible for allowing protestors to set the US embassy on fire during protests against America’s support for Kosovo’s proclamation of independence in 2008.

The same daily newspaper, Kurir, has for several weeks led the front pages with reports on Veljovic’s alleged connections with criminals, nepotism, and obstruction of investigations.

Veljovic has meanwhile claimed that a tycoon’s lobby was planting the stories in the press in order to discredit the police amid several high-profile corruption investigations that are ongoing.

He insisted that the police were working hard on 24 investigations into privatisation deals.

“They won’t manage to discredit our work, especially regarding that among those people who took at least a million euros during the privatisation deals that we are now investigating,” he said.

“Those people are now trying to decide personnel issues in the police, and deceive the public into thinking the police has been criminalised,” Veljovic added.

The attacks on him only started with one aim: to stop the arrest of tycoons involved in dodgy deals, he maintained.

Aleksandar Rodic, owner of Kurir, refuted Veljovic’s claim, maintaining that the newspaper acted only in the public interest.

“There is no one else behind Kurir, but the people,” Rodic wrote in an open letter to Veljovic on September 17.

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