Serbia’s ‘Untouchables’

BELGRADE – Serbia plans to declare war on organized crime and corruption with a new law and a team of well-paid «Untouchables» wielding sweeping powers to crack down on mafia bosses and dishonest officials. A draft of the law, based on Italian and Croatian anti-mafia legislation, to go before Parliament in the coming weeks calls for the creation of a special prosecutor’s office, court department, police service and detention unit. As in other Balkan states, organized crime and corruption are widespread in Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic under reformist rule since Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in 2000. They flourished under Milosevic as living standards plummeted with the violent breakup of communist Yugoslavia and Western-imposed sanctions made rule-breaking a way of life. «This law creates the possibility of really fighting organized crime and really working on reforms, not only talking about them,» said a source from the Belgrade district prosecutor’s office who demanded anonymity. A copy of the bill obtained by Reuters says the yearly cost of the new measures would be around $15.58 million – to cover logistics, a witness protection program and 250 employees, including 15 judges and 15 prosecutors. In an effort to stop members of the anti-graft team falling victim to corruption themselves, the law proposes they should be paid extremely highly by current Serbian standards. It stipulates the special prosecutor, the president of the special court department and the commander of the special police service should each have a net salary of at least $2,337 per month. Serbia’s average salary is around $130. War crimes and terrorism would also be covered by the Law on Special Authorities in Fighting Organized Crime and Corruption, drafted by Interior Ministry and justice officials. The law contains several novelties for the Serbian justice system, including a special witness protection program for turncoats and more powers for undercover investigations. Lawyers and human rights activists have started complaining about potential violations of the rights of suspects. «No law must violate the constitution and there are a number of violations in this law,» said Dusan Masic, a Belgrade lawyer who added the bill gave too much power to the new agencies. – More activity in the Atlantic, although rates dropped almost by USD 300 daily. M/V «Wilrider» 74,044 dwt, built 1995, with delivery Portugal end June for 2 laden legs via S. America, redelivery Atlantic, has fixed at USD 6,500 daily.