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Serbo Journal

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Nine arrested on corruption charges in Serbia

Nine people suspected of criminal association, bribery and revealing official secrets were arrested by the Serbian police on 12 April, after an eight month investigation. The detainees include three state officials -- Belgrade Commercial Court President Goran Kljajevic, Commercial Court Judge Delinka Djurdjevic and an officer of the Serbian police's general inspectorate, Dejan Ivezic.

Businessmen Mika and Milinko Brasnjevic, Kreditno-Eksportna Banka director Sekula Pijevcevic, lawyers Jasmina Kojic and Nemanja Jolovic, and Postal Savings Bank chairwoman Jelica Zivkovic were also among those apprehended. A tenth person -- Slobodan Radulovic, the former general manager of the C Market retail chain -- is on the run. Police say he is probably in Spain. An international arrest warrant will be issued for him.

The ten individuals are suspected of conspiring in a series of irregular bankruptcy proceedings and company privatisations, ruining several companies in the process and defrauding the state of tens of millions of euros. The C Market chain reportedly suffered around 20m euros in losses. Other damaged companies include the formerly successful Beko, Slavija and Belgrade Department Stores, all of which which ended up being dragged into bankruptcy.

All of those arrested have been placed in month-long custody. The case has been taken over by the special prosecutor for organised crime, Slobodan Radovanovic, and has been declared a state secret.

According to Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic, "this is the largest organised criminal group ever uncovered in Serbia."

The Serbian police "have dealt the biggest blow to economic crime and corruption in Serbia after [the toppling of Milosevic's regime on] 5 October 2000," Dinkic said, adding that Kljajevic had eluded justice until now because he had the support of politicians and key government figures. Finally the political will has been summoned to deal with him, Dinkic added.

Kljajevic has been accused of abuse of office previously, and was suspended from duty in June 2004. However, he was returned to the position due to an apparent lack of evidence.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's government has been stepping up the battle against corruption in recent months. Supreme Court Judge Ljubomir Vuckovic was arrested for accepting a bribe in September 2005. In mid-January 2006, National Bank of Serbia Vice Governor Dejan Simic was also arrested for bribery. At the same time, authorities brought charges against one of Serbia's most powerful tycoons, Bogoljub Karic, who left the country soon after.

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