Minister investigated for possible conflict of interest
Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac has submitted documents to the Anti-Corruption Agency regarding his involvement in the construction of a building in Belgrade.Source: Tanjug, Radio Free Europe
The Agency requested from the minister to submit the necessary documents regarding the construction of a luxurious apartment-office building in the Belgrade municipality of Vračar in order to investigate whether there is a conflict of interest.
One of the apartments in the future building should be Šutanovac’s.
Anti-corruption website Pištaljka obtained information that Šutanovac was building luxurious apartments with his wife and another eight co-investors, including Cyprus-based company that has been doing business with the Defense Ministry.
According to Radio Free Europe, Cyprus-based Vilab Pharm Director was Radomir Bzik who owned a Belgrade-based company called Peyton Medical that sold medicines and medical equipment to the Defense Ministry. The company got the contract five times, without a tender.
One of the five cadastral lots on which the office-apartment building will be built, was a public city land. It has 744 square meters and the City of Belgrade leased it to Šutanovac and his co-investors for 99 years based on a contract with the Building Directorate and a decision of the Belgrade Urbanism Secretariat.
The defense minister confirmed himself earlier that he was taking part in the construction of the building since he did not own an apartment and added that “a friend who is in the construction business suggested him to do so”.
“The fact that the minister is involved in a construction business with a former owner of a company that did business for the Serbian Army (VS) raises doubt that there is a conflict of interest and the Agency will investigate it,” Anti-Corruption Agency Board President Zoran Stojiljković said.
“I think that the Agency has already contacted Mr. Šutanovac and if Mr. Šutanovac has started the construction with his co-investors and if the company he is building with has business ties with the Defense Ministry, then it is reason enough to investigate the situation,” he told Radio Free Europe.
“This is also reason enough for the Agency to first request an extraordinary report on Mr. Šutanovac’s financial records and property, to see since when the investment exists and whether it is covered with his legal incomes and then to along with it see whether persons are connected, i.e. to see if there is a suspicion or concern that there is a conflict of interest,” Stojiljković explained.
Even though he is obligated by the law to report every change in his financial status, Šutanovac so far has not reported to the Anti-Corruption Agency that he and his wife acquired ownership of one tenth of the apartment which was located on the land the new office-apartment complex is being built before the construction started.
Anti-Corruption Council’s Danilo Šuković says that Šutanovac’s case and similar cases will represent a test for the Anti-Corruption Agency.
He added, however, that he was not overly optimistic.
“I am afraid, for two reasons. The first is that the Agency has no legal means to do so and the second one, I do not know whether they are capable of it and whether they intend to do so. I other words, whether they were formed in order to reveal or cover the problem,” Šuković pointed out.