Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told Wednesday’s news conference that the police had arrested an official of the Direct Media company (formerly owned by opposition leader Dragan Djilas) as well as two others from the Serbian state TV (RTS) just hours after Djilas reminded reporters that he warned of the arrests earlier.
The RTS reported that the police confirmed the arrests of the Direct Media CEO and two RTS employees were done under the orders of the Organized Crime Prosecution.
The minister’s news conference came just a couple of hours after Djilas reminded reporters that he had warned 45 days earlier that people in his company and the RTS would be arrested under false accusations of inflicting damages on the public broadcaster.
Speaking in front of the Serbian Presidency building, Djilas said the arrests were made under orders from President Aleksandar Vucic. He added that RTS documents showed that the charges against the three people were false. “They have been arrested on the basis of a decision by Aleksandar Vucic, not legal issues. He decided this and I say no way,” he said and explained that his news conference was being held in front of the presidency because “this is where the lives and deaths of people in this country are decided”.
Lawyer Zdenko Tomanovic told N1 that Direct Media CEO Jovan Stojanovic was released from custody after his arrest. Tomanovic said that the prosecutor refused to order the three people arrested into custody. He added that the arrest and charges against Stojanovic and his predecessor Jadranka Drinic is an unsuccessful attempt to push the prosecution into political marketing against Dragan Djilas.
Djilas also recalled that he showed reporters a document signed by RTS CEO Dragan Bujosevic in February 2019 which said that none of the 2009 contracts inflicted damages but brought the station profit. Djilas said the same thing happened five years earlier when he was head of the Democratic Party (DS) and more than 20 Belgrade city administration staff (during his tenure as Mayor) were arrested on construed charges but never indicted.
Djilas said that the current authorities left him alone while he took a break from politics and renewed their assault on him when he decided to become politically active again.
Stefanovic identified the three arrested people only by their initials (Direct Media CEO JS, RTS former marketing and commercial services directors MDJ and MK) adding that an arrest warrant has been issued for JD, a former Direct Media official. The minister claimed that the total damages inflicted on the RTS stand at 688 million Dinars.
He said the investigation took a year to complete because information was not readily available. “This case will end up in court with an indictment. This is an example of how the RTS, ie the citizens of Serbia, was robbed. These people are suspected of taking part in serious crimes with 688 million Dinars ending up in someone’s pockets,” he said.
Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) also held a news conference to comment the arrests. SNS deputy leader Marija Obradovic told the media before the arrests were confirmed that the arrests confirm what SNS officials have been saying. She claimed that Djilas and his company got free time and discounts from the RTS, without a contract and in violation of the law, which he then resold to make millions of Euros in profits.