Troubled bank's former chief arrested at border crossing

BELGRADE -- The former president of the Agrobanka Executive Board, Dušan Antonić - who left the Serbia on Wednesday morning - has been arrested at a border crossing.

Dušan Antonić (B92)
Dušan Antonić (B92)

According to PM and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić, Antonić was arrested "as he was trying to reenter the country" from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Earlier reports suggested that he was a person of interest in the investigation into suspected wrongdoings that led to Agrobanka's downfall.

He was supposed to be questioned by the police, but reportedly "fled the country" this morning.

Antonić was arrested at the Sremska Rača border crossing between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina at around 22:00 CET on Wednesday.

Seven of his Agrobanka associates have also been placed under arrest during the day.

B92 learned earlier on Wednesday that Antonić had left the country only a day after he gave an exclusive interview to our television outlet, when he spoke about Agrobanka's debt worth EUR 300 illion, and admitted on the air that he received a EUR 600,000 bonus from the bank.

Speaking about the bonus he was given, Antonić said on Tuesday that he "saw no problem with the fact it came as the economic crisis took over", and noted he was "ready to talk to the authorities about how the loans were handed out - if they asked him to".

However, he in the meantime left Serbia.

The way in which Agrobanka was ruined is one of the affairs that the country's new government pledged would be solved. The bank's license to operate was revoked as it was discovered that it had accumulated debt in the amount of EUR 300 mostly - mostly by granting loans to companies that did not provide adequate guarantees.

The loans were subsequently never repaid.

The media is speculating that the management, headed by Antonić, gave the loans to "politically suitable companies and individuals", without making sure they would be repaid.

There has been talk about the responsibility of Agrobanka's management, the central bank (NBS) - which was tasked with controlling the bank - and the "heads of the (former) government who had their members participate" in the bank's management. However, no one has thus far been named as the guilty party in the bank's downfall.

Dinkić reacts

Serbian Minister of Finance and Economy Mlađan Dinkić stated on Wednesday that one of the most difficult tasks would be to make up for the EUR 300 million worth of losses in Agrobanka, and called on competent bodies to look into the responsibility of all those who caused the losses.

Dinkić expects the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) to draw up a review of the banking sector and prepare the plan for the rehabilitation of the banks which faced problems, Dinkić told reporters during a briefing.

Dinkić underscored that all the individuals who caused the losses should be called to answer for the situation in Agrobanka since Serbian citizens would now have to make up for the losses.

The minister said that he cannot be asked to define criminal responsibility and that investigative and judicial bodies should tackle this task.

"We should identify the government representative in the company and see what the NBS control did," Dinkić said and added that he believes it is not fair for someone in the bank to get a EUR 600,000 worth of bonus at the moment when the loss of EUR 300 million has been established.

The minister said that the situation in state banks is being analyzed and that the authorities have not established why around EUR 200 million worth of funds were paid for the capital increase in state banks.

In addition to Agrobanka, the government granted a capital increase to Privredna Banka Beograd and the Development Bank of Vojvodina.

Speaking for B92 TV later in the day, Dinkić said that "what he knew" was that Agrobanka was EUR 7mn in the black in mid-2011, "but it then turned out it had losses of 300 million".

"It must be determine how the losses were created. That must be resolved," said the minister.