KRIK: Serbia’s judge known for releasing high-profile suspects does it again

NEWS 27.09.2021 23:04
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Source: hutterstock/N1/Medija centar Beograd/MUP Srbije

The president of an Appellate Court panel Zoran Savic who has released the accused drug boss Predrag Koluvija from custody has been known for a series of similar decisions in the past, the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) wrote on Monday.

Koluvija is on trial for having the largest marijuana plant in Europe. He maintains he has produced industrial hemp.

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Last week, Savic ordered Koluvija to wear an electronic ankle tag at home. He can leave the place with a special permit.

According to KRIK, Savic’s other controversial decisions include violating the law when he and other panel members acquitted Stanko Subotic of cigarette smuggling charges.

He was also on the panel that upheld the acquittal of Zvonko Veselinovic, a notorious Kosovo businessman believed to be close to Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic family.

KRIK said it had been a rare case in the judiciary that people accused of organising large criminal groups were released from custody before the trial was over.

Unlike Koluvija, a drug lord Darko Saric, sentenced to 15 years for international cocaine smuggling, as well as Mladen Novakovic, aka Tocilo, sentenced to 17 years for organising a criminal group that traded in heroin and cocaine, waited for the verdicts in custody.

Last year, KRIK reported that Savic invested in the construction of a controversial villa with 13 apartments worth more than a million euros. The villa was built in the centre of Mt. Kopaonik. The origin of Savic’s investment remained known.

He and his wife, also a judge in the Belgrade Appellate Court, own three apartments in Belgrade’s centre and a cottage near Mt Avala overlooking Serbia’s capital, KRIK reports.

„It remains unclear how they managed to afford such valuable real estates on the salaries which do not exceed four thousand euros a month put together,“ KRIK wrote.

Koluvija’s trial for producing marijuana continues on Wednesday.

He is the main suspect in another procedure, in the ‘Jovanjica’ plant case, involving the police officers, members of the Security-Information Agency (BIA) and the Military Intelligence Agency (VOA), accused of providing him protection and logistical support.

None of the accused in both proceedings, 19 in total, are no longer in custody, KRIK says. Some were released pending trial; some, like Koluvija, have been given an electronic ankle tag, while some are at large.

The ‘Jovanjica’ case, KRIK writes, has been linked to politics from the very beginning. When the police discovered Koluvija’s plant at the end of 2019 and seized more than a tonne of marijuana, their report hasn’t been made public.

When an opposition leader broke the news,  the then Interior, now Defence Minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, explained the police kept silent to avoid warning other potential perpetrators.

When the trial began, the names of some politicians were mentioned in the courtroom. Koluvija told the court that an inspector asked him to sign a confession saying he worked for Vucic’s brother Andrej Vucic and Veselinovic, but, he said then, he had refused.

One of his defence lawyers is Vladimir Djukanovic,  an MP and an official of Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

KRIK recalled that Aleksandar Vulin, current Interior Minister, Dragomir Petronijevic, a member of the Belgrade City Council, Dragan Sikimic, the director of the Anti-corruption Agency and Zoran Babic, former director of the ‘Corridor of Serbia,’ visited Koluvija’s plant said to be producing health vegetables.

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