Trials Await Serbia’s New Organised Crime Prosecutor

Over the next six years, Serbia’s newly-elected organized crime prosecutor will be watched closely to see if he can show his independence and tackle the country’s most high-profile cases.

Special Court Belgrade

The Serbian Special Court | Photo: Beta

The new Serbian organized crime prosecutor Mladen Nenadic not only faces a tough job dealing with his caseload, but will be under close scrutiny because he was a controversial choice for the job. After several hours of debate in the Serbian National Assembly on Monday, 139 of the 169 MPs present voted for Nenadic. Nenadic replaces Miljko Radosavljevic, who has been in the job since 2009 and whose mandate is expiring at the end of the year.

Meet the new prosecutor

Mladen Nenadic was born in the city of Cacak in 1963. He graduated from the law faculty in Kragujevac in 1987 and passed his judicial examination in 1990. From 1990 to 1995, he worked as an inspector for fighting financial crime in the police administration in Cacak and later as a chief of the department for combating financial crime. In 1995, he became a deputy to the public prosecutor in the municipal public prosecutor’s office in Cacak, and in 2001 was appointed acting head of Cacak’s public prosecutor’s office. Since 2004, he has worked as a lawyer specialising in criminal law. He has 25 years of experience in criminal cases.  Source: Tanjug news agency.

However, Nenadic’s election caused controversy because he is a relative unknown and because he was the only one from the shortlist of candidates who has not worked in the prosecutor’s office already. Stevan Dojcinovic, a journalist at KRIK, a media organisation that investigates crime and corruption, told BIRN that Nenadic is a mystery because he is also not known for handling any major criminal cases as a lawyer. “Nenadic does not have a lot of experience in prosecution… also, it is unclear which major criminal cases he was involved in,” Dojcinovic said.
Nenadic has been a defence attorney in seven different organized crime trials, defending suspects accused of being part of a ‘Customs mafia’, of money counterfeiting, international arms trafficking and other offences. During the parliamentary session on Monday, the opposition criticised the government for what it claimed was a lack of clear criteria for the election of public prosecutors, alleging that their political suitability was the only important factor.
Dojcinovic said he believes it is clear that the governing Progressive Party chose Nenadic. “The ruling majority has elected him, there is no doubt about that since so many deputies voted for him and it would be strange if they were all aware of his qualities,” he said. “This means that now we have a state prosecutor for organized crime who is clearly elected by the ruling majority,” he added. Since Nenadic was not part of the prosecution, he also had to pass a special test developed to check a candidate’s knowledge. He passed the test, scoring the maximum of 50 points.
Dragan Palibrk, a criminal lawyer for more than 20 years, told BIRN that he is not familiar with Nenadic’s work, but political influence in the work of the judiciary has been a constant factor for decades in the country. “Although I have worked for so many years on criminal cases, I do not know anything about Nenadic. There are a lot of critics among my colleagues about the procedures by which Nenadic was elected, and I agree with them,” Palibrk said. “Political influence on the work of prosecution existed during the previous government and that is something that will not be changed in future,” he added.
One of the Progressive Party’s main promises before its last election victory was to fight crime and corruption. Former prosecutor Radisavljevic launched several important organized crime cases, notably the indictment of alleged drugs boss Darko Saric and other suspected members of drug cartels. Tycoon Miroslav Miskovic was also indicted during Radisavljevic’s term in office.
There are currently around 36 pending organised crime cases at the prosecutor’s office. Dojcinovic expects that the new prosecutor will seek to show his worth at the beginning of his mandate. “He will probably go hard with some cases and also with a lot of PR and media appearances,” he said.
Judiciary reform is one of the main conditions for Serbia joining the EU and it is a part of chapter 23 of the negotiating process which began this month. The European Commission stressed in its latest report on Serbia in November that the country had made some steps towards judicial reform but more progress was needed to tackle political influence.
The quality and efficiency of the judiciary and access to justice are also hampered by “an uneven distribution of workload, a burdensome case backlog and the lack of a free legal aid system”, the report said.

Balkan Insight 

23 December 2015