PM: There are "irregularities" in big football clubs

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday admitted there had been "thievery and irregularities" in the business dealings of Serbia's largest football clubs.

Source: B92
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His comments came after B92 TV on Monday broadcast the first episode of its new investigative series, Reporter, dedicated to these issues.

Vucic spoke in Kopaonik, where he is attending the Business Forum, to say that results of an investigation into illegitimate activities in Partizan and Red Star (Crvena Zvezda) will soon be known to the public.

Vucic reiterated that the only solution for both clubs was privatization.

The B92 TV program investigated how the Serbian football giants conducted their business with debts worth millions and blocked bank accounts, and how they managed to survive without any real income.

"Was there thievery there? You bet there was. That's no big secret. Of course there was. Did they steal a lot? They did. St. Peter could not establish, it's like with Politika (newspaper.) Nobody can establish who the owner is over there, so I'm also giving up on that," said Vucic.

Asked when an investigation can be expected that would show "how much was stolen and who was stealing money from the clubs," the prime minister replied:

"They are under investigation, and a working group was working and arrived at certain results. You can expect these results soon."

Vucic then remarked that the program also presented "some fabrications he would not comment on." Asked when politicians would - as he had announced - leave positions they hold in football clubs, he replied:

"As far as the SNS is concerned, all politicians have left clubs. There is only Slavisa Kokez, but he is not a high-ranking (party) official, he is a member of the main board, and there will soon be a new main board."

According to him, privatization is "the only, the exclusive solution." But Vucic recognizes that at this point he "has no power and ability to persuade people who manage Red Star and Partizan of this."

"We cannot solve it only through privatization. Does the state have the power to implement it? I am afraid it does not - and is it my desire? Absolutely, and that's why I heard it a hundred thousand times, 'Vucic, you fagot', 'Vucic this or that'. Now you pretend you never heard that, but you like it on social networks and pretend you don't know what it's about. It's about me asking for clubs to be privatized," said Vucic.

Stressing that he would not "go into politicking" over such an important topic, Vucic underlined that "it was a serious problem that the state cannot solve it," and that privatization was the only solution "once there are no interests of any kind and of anybody."

Vucic then added that clubs cannot be shut down because their accounts are blocked.

"Do you know how many companies are blocked? Should we abolish the DS (party) because they are blocked? How do they pay for seminars and other things outside the law? You want to abolish democracy in Serbia? How come you didn't think of that, but instead chose to go for easy targets," Vucic said during his conversation with reporters.

According to the prime minister, his mention in the first episode of the new investigative program was "deserved" because he appeared in a press conference at Red Star FC - but he also asked "why people from the DS have not been mentioned as well."

Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic also commented on the program and the reaction of the football clubs in question who issued a statement after the broadcast. He said that journalists facing problems in their work can always count on receiving full protection from the police.

Stefanovic said he was not a sports connoisseur, but that if the clubs' statements were in any way contentious, "there's no dilemma" about launching procedures.

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