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Who is responsible for abuses in Serbia Railways?

Trials for abuse in public enterprises in Serbia are that rare that even if it comes to a verdict, it opens question whether everything is being investigated and why no investigations are conducted in other similar cases. Public welcomes negatively also those cases in which there is a high level of doubt of corruption that came to the court but are not followed up with convicting verdict.

That, of course, does not necessarily mean that the court made a mistake – the courts judgments above all point to the quality of the evidence and the basis of the allegations presented in the indictment, and the quality of conclusion in the first instance verdict.

The trial of the former director of Serbia Railway and his associates, again on 12th of March came to the first instance verdict, this time acquitting.

According to the trial council “the prosecutor did not offer enough evidence to substantiate its allegations”, and the procurement of used locomotives “could be done in Serbia, without intermediaries, which accused denied, referring to the laws at that time, but first of all according to the Law on Financial Leasing, they did not have to call the tender, but they could have done “urgent purchase””.

According to the indictment, the disputed locomotives and wagons, for which the procurement Šarančić was charged, were purchased at a significantly higher price through an intermediarycompany, not directly from the bidder.

The prosecution claim that by the purchase from the second or third hand, the price of the locomotives and trains significantly increased from the price offered by direct bidder, and that the damage to the public company was estimated at various amounts, mostly around 1 million euros.

The case of purchase used locomotives is characteristic, because in it there were a lot of media publicity, even before the criminal proceeding began.

Based on those information, the only conclusion that can be conducted about the existence of two necessary elements for criminal offense of abuse of office – violation of the prescribed procedure and the occurrence of the damage to a public enterprise.In the criminal procedure should be examined and proved the existence of third – the intention of the managers and officials in the public enterprise. However, if we judge by media reports, now the court claims there was no violation of procedural rules of public procurement.

Such position is in a great contradiction with the data about implementing these procurements which were known by now, and because of that this case should be discussed not only in the context of concrete trial, but also because of the further functioning of the public procurement system in the Republic of Serbia.

Nothing less interesting than the news itself, were the statements of liberated Šarančić and his defense attorney Petronijević. In those statements there is no reflection on issues covered by this specific indictment and the verdict, if we exclude the allegations that “the procedure was directed and carried out in the offices of the former regime”. So, the former director Šarančić, when talking about the useful purchase he had, claims that the procurements costed 7 million euros, and that they brought 120 million. Such claim can be completely correct, even if it has nothing to do with the subject of the possible abuse, because the key question is – could the purchase of locomotives cost for example 6, not 7 million euros.

Even more interesting were the claims of Šarčević, that even in 2005, himself based on the internal control findings, wrote to the police and prosecution the letter in which allegedly he described 7 or 8 cases of abuseseveral million euros worth. He also claims that “no one reacted”. Among other things, some of those abuses are allegedly related to the leasing locomotives and towing trains. Also, the specific company was mentioned, which was “close to the former regime”. Having in mind that “the former regime” is former for several yearsalready, it is hard to believe that political pressures could be done on the police and prosecution. It is also hard to believe even if there were those pressures, that they could be the reason for those abuses not to escalate, unless the members of the former regime changed sides in the meantime.

However, Šarančić, as the submitter of those reports, also the successor companies of the former Serbian Railways, should request information from prosecution about if the investigation is on-going. Also, are criminal charges submitted or rejected and for what reason, should be a part of their interest. In any case, eventual responsibility of Šarančić’s predecessor and/or successor in Serbian Railways for some other abuses is not relevant for determining his guilt/innocence, but it can certainly complete the picture of available funds by public companies in Serbia.