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News 27 Dec 17

Probe Sought Into Serbian Ruling Party's Donations

Serbia’s Anti-Corruption Agency has called for a check on transactions made by President Aleksandar Vucic's Progressive Party during his presidential bid, suspecting illegal donations.

Vladimir Kostic, Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Darko Vojinovic/Beta/AP

Serbia's Anti-Corruption Agency has called for a probe into donations made to Aleksandar Vucic’s successful presidential campaign in April 2017, following claims that some of them came from illegal activities, including money laundering.

In a request to the Finance Ministry, which BIRN obtained early in December, the agency said it had analysed reports on the campaign expenses of the Serbian Progressive Party and had determined that a number of persons donated identical amounts of money.

The report, dated October 16, and submitted to the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, was signed by the agency’s then director, Majda Kriskapa, who resigned less than a month later, for unknown reasons.

A BIRN investigation revealed in October that almost 7,000 individuals each donated 40,000 dinars [around 320 euros] to the Progressives and their candidate, Vucic. He then won the April 2 election in the first round.

Vucic later said that he “assumed” that those donors had donated identical sums “because it was allowed that individuals donate that amount – and no more than that.”

“I don’t know if it was like that, but I assume … [if I say] ‘I want to donate 800 euros, but I cannot give 800 euros, it is [not] allowed,’ [then I would say to another person], ‘here is the money, please pay for our party,’” Vucic stated in an interview to the Serbian website Insajder.

Although many legal experts say the Law on Financing Political Activities may have been violated, the Anti-Corruption Agency’s request could remain unanswered.

This is because the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering says “laundered" assets must come from a previously committed crime.

“Since the agency’s report did not describe the illegal activities in question, and the Administration could not draw its own conclusion from it, the Administration did not act on the request any further," the Administration said in a written reply to BIRN.

The agency also requested in August that the Labour Ministry check if some donors were also receiving welfare.

During the 2012 and 2014 elections, media reported that political parties had received donations from persons on welfare, raising suspicions that they were acting as covers for the true donors.

The ministry told BIRN that it delivered the information to the Agency, but did not say if they identified new cases of possible abuses.

The Anti-Corruption Agency also did not answer BIRN’s question about whether the ministry had determined whether some of the donors were also welfare recipients.

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