Only hours after the KRIK investigative website reported on Thursday that the recently arrested head of an organised crime group told investigators he had links to Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and high-ranking officials of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), he and his party comrades have rushed to deny the report, while the opposition has blamed him and the regime of siding with criminals.
Earlier in the day, KRIK quoted what it said was a transcript of Veljko Belivuk, aka Velja Nevolja, interrogation.
According to the transcript, Belivuk has told investigators that Vucic and his associates have asked for favors such as making sure that Partizan FC supporters don’t chant offensive slogans against the President, securing the Pride, intimidating organisers of anti-regime protests and forcing taxi drivers to cancel their protests against CarGo, a privately-owned transport company.
Belivuk told the interrogators he had met Vucic directly.
Asked about those claims, Vucic said he had never met Belivuk or in any way communicated with the members of his criminal organisation.
The President added he was ready to speak about that before all respective institutions and take a polygraph test in public and announced a public address in the next 48 hours to „offer new evidence that will shed a new light to all the accusations and point at political links of the criminals.“
The announcement may be Vucic’s transfer of blame to the opposition, which he has earlier accused of having links to organised crime.
His close ally, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, dispersed any doubt about the regime’s targets. She said that Belivuk, suspected of the most heinous crimes „becomes a credible source to the tycoons’ opposition and their media,“ in attacks on SNS people.
The opposition, however, has a different view of Belivuk’s testimony. Democratic Party (DS) said, „it is clear Vucic is the head of the mafia in Serbia.“ At the same time, another organisation wants the President out of the office.
But Vucic said that „if it proves I have seen them, I’m ready not only to leave the post but to spend life behind bars and pay myself for every day in prison,“ Vucic said.
He added he was proud that those criminals chose him as the most prominent opponent.
In what further indicates the regime will try to link the opposition leaders and independent media to organised crime and specifically to Belivuk’s group, the President of the SNS Executive Board, Darko Glisic, has said that „it’s obviously a notorious lie by people who have been dealing with politics all the time and now attack those who arrested them and promote those who have been their allies and protectors,“
Belivuk also mentioned Glisic as a contact within the authorities. Still, the SNS official said that if he weren’t the head of the party’s Executive Board and Vucic’s close associate, he wouldn’t have been mentioned at all.
He added that „they (the members of the criminal organisation) even said they did not kill anyone, and we all saw the evidence.“
Glisic’s party comrade and Deputy Prime Minister Maja Gojkovic also indicated the authorities’ line would be that their opponents in politics and most probably in the media, would take the blame. She said that „spreading untruths“ about the links between Vucic and Belivuk, „has one and one goal only – to criminalise the President.“
„It’s not the first time that many gather to, lacking evidence, use imputations and slanders against the President and his family, trying to deal with him,“ Gojkovic said.
She added that „the monsters who killed, mutilates, tortured, and ground people would not easily withdraw and give up their criminal, economic and political interests.“
Her colleague, Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, joined Vucic’s shielding team and speculations about who was behind Belivuk’s statement. „Unfortunately, we came to the point when some media and powerful people behind them use statements by the people suspected of the most monstrous crimes for a show-down with Aleksandar Vucic.“
He added it was „not strange that Belivuk invents anything, but it is that such a crazy lie gets space in the media and that it is orchestrated and prepared by politicians, whose goal is to return to power at any cost.“
„And this is not the first time that they have sided with criminals, emphasising and defending their credibility against the judicial authorities,“ Stefanovic said.
He added it was evident that a strong Serbia was bothering them more than ever and that the fight would have to be fought with undiminished ferocity.
„President Vucic has full support in the fight for a strong, honest and independent Serbia,“ Stefanovic said.
According to other opposition’s statements, Vucic will such support.
The People’s Party said Belivuk’s statement proved the criminal group worked for Vucic, following his instructions, while the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) said it was apparent why the institutions „did not earlier react to clear evidence of the group’s criminal activities.“
SAA added the testimony of Belivuk, who it said was an SNS member, was a warning to the „boss“, as he referred to Vucic. The party said Belivuk obviously cautioned Vucic he would say many more things about their direct cooperation and about what he had done for the regime if „some people don’t come to their senses.“
„It is now clear why the state and its institutions have not reacted to clear evidence of the group’s criminal activities over the years. Why the investigation covered only the 2019 period and on? Why the names of wiretapped people Vucic spoke on the phone to have been hidden from the public for months,“ the party said.
It added that „for Serbia to become a normal country and for every citizen to feel safe in it, it is necessary for not only the criminals but also their political masterminds and protectors be held accountable.“
That will be one of the highest priorities after removing this „mafia“ government, SSP says.
The Assembly of Free Serbia went further, demanding Vucic’s resignation or dismissal from the presidential post „to enable an unhindered investigation of his role in criminal activities.“