Assault on Serbian Corruption Official ‘a Warning’

A senior Anti-Corruption Council member claims she was violently attacked because of her critical reports on government agencies.

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Miroslava Milenovic,  Anti-Corruption Council member | Photo: Media center

A senior member of the Serbian government’s Anti-Corruption Council who was violently assaulted in front of her home on Saturday has claimed the attack is directly connected to her work.

Miroslava Milenovic described the attack as a “warning” following the publication last month of a highly critical report on corruption within the state-owned Diplomatic Housing Company, DIPOS, which rents luxury properties to diplomatic missions.  “I must say that it shows the power that political structures have at the moment, but also that the report about DIPOS is correct,” Milenovic told the Serbian website Pescanik on Sunday. Milenovic was hit in the face by two attackers in the foyer of her Belgrade apartment building. The assailants fled the scene immediately afterwards.

The Anti-Corruption Council report on DIPOS, published on November 5, revealed that luxury properties had been rented out at reduced rates without abiding by legal procedures. “Only privileged individuals are informed of the available real estate and leasing possibilities and the rental rates are not always in line with market prices,” the report alleges.

The Anti-corruption Council has also asked the government to abolish DIPOS. Djoko Krivokapic, director of DIPOS, denied the allegations contained in the report and insisted his agency operates lawfully, according to an article published by the daily newspaper Vecernje Novosti on November 7.

Milenovic says she did not report the attack to the police because she “does not have confidence” in the authorities. She also told Pescanik she had informed both the Special Organised Crime Prosecutor and the Service for Combating Organised Crime several months ago that she believed she was being followed. Milenovic says she has not yet received any information since reporting her concerns. The Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Sunday that the police are doing everything possible to identify and find her attackers but underlined Milenovic had refused to cooperate with the police. “The police service is doing everything in cooperation with the prosecution… in order to uncover the perpetrators of the attack. Unfortunately, Ms Milenovic did not want to cooperate with the police,” Stefanovic said in a statement released to the media on Sunday.

This is the second time an Anti-Corruption Council associate has been physically attacked this year. On August 27, Ivan Ninic was beaten up outside his home by two men armed with metal bars. Ninic told BIRN that to his knowledge no progress had been made with the police investigation into the attack. The police service has not responded to BIRN’s request for a statement on how far the investigation into the attack on Ninic has progressed.

The Council of Europe has expressed concern about the attack on Milenovic. “We are carefully monitoring events. The fight against corruption must remain a priority in Serbia, as in all member states,” Daniel Holtegen, a spokesman for the General Secretariat of the Council of Europe, said on Sunday.

The Anti-Corruption Council recently announced it will soon publish a new report on how budget funds have been used for advertising, PR services and sponsorship.

Balkan Insight

23 November 2015