Seven Years to File Indictment

Friday May 17th, 2013
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Defendants in the Eronet case acquitted for lack of evidence and expiring statute of limitations.

Dragan Covic

A trial of Dragan Čović. (Photo: CIN)

By: The Center for Investigative Reporting

The Chief Prosecutor of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNK) Nijaz Mehmedbašić does not consider himself to be responsible for the state losing the case against Dragan Čović at el in the Eronet case.

“What we had and knew we turned into the indictment. It will be neither the first nor the last acquittal,” Mehmedbašić told the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN).

Dragan Čović, Marinko Gilja, Vladimir Šoljić, Matan Žarić, Neven Đukić, Ivan Baćak and Slavica Josipović were indicted for abusing office to help a third-party gain over 10.000 KM. The Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) upheld the Cantonal Court’s verdict this March.

According to the verdict, the prosecutors failed to prove charges against the defendants, while some acts that could be characterized as criminal offence have not been treated in the indictment. The Court found that in some cases, the statute of limitations expired in September 2009 while the indictment was submitted in January 2010.

According to the records collected by CIN, the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office in Mostar had a criminal report with the original documents acquired during the investigation in January 2003, or seven years before the indictment was filed.

Prosecutor Mehmedbašić said that the time in between was spent on additional checks: “We’ve checked several times over.”

He said that several prosecutors have worked on the case. According to the Financial Police of FBiH which had conducted the investigation, the criminal report and accompanying paperwork were sufficient for filing indictment. “Still, according to the law, the final decision rests with the prosecutors,” wrote in a letter to CIN the Chief Inspector Zufer Dervišević.

In the report, the financial police pictures as lead defendants Gilja and Čović. Gilja was suspected of damaging the taxpayers in the FBiH for at least 4.6 million KM as well as forging official documents and ledgers. Čović was suspected of abusing office when he made an illegitimate decision to transfer ownership capital of 4.6 million KM that HPT Mostar had in Eronet company to Mostar-based Hercegovina Osiguranje and Croherc AG and a Široki Brijeg TGP Alpina Komerc.

Prosecutor Mehmedbašić said that the institution he’s heading “has put a stop to theft—stopped Eronet from being turned over to private hands” by initiating the investigation.

In fact, voiding the contract on the transfer of Eronet’s ownership to private firms was the subject of another litigation which was resolved in February 2005, before the filing of the indictment. The FBiH government as one of HPT’s owners initiated the litigation.

Published May 17, 2013

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