Hearing in Jovanjica 2 charges delayed; Serbia’s MUP avoids transferring officer

NEWS 22.10.2021 13:20
N1 (Jovanjica, arhiva)

The preparatory hearing in the Jovanjica 2nd indictment dealing with Serbia's security services involvement in the largest marijuana farm in Europe was postponed again on Friday because an accused was said to have the COVID-19, according to a lawyer.

At the same time, Serbia’s Interior Ministry (MUP) official refused to sign the transfer of the leading inspector who uncovered the affair from his post in the Anti-Drug to War Crimes Department.

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The previous hearing in the Jovanjica case was delayed on September 30. As a defence lawyer said at the time, there were no procedural preconditions for continuing the hearing. Vladimir Djukanovic, a high-ranked official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), and an attorney for the main defendant, Predrag Koluvija, then said a defendant’s father had died.

The new date was set for Friday.

The hearings have earlier been postponed due to the defence’s failure to appear and because Koluvija revoked a power of attorney to his lawyers.

In June, one of the defence attorneys asked for the dismissal of the presiding judge, which had later been denied.

On Friday, Dragan Vasiljevic, an assistant Police Commissioner, was said he would not sign the transfer of Slobodan Milenkovic because he was aware of public pressure and possible reactions.

However, as Nova.rs reported, the main reason why Vasiljevic had rejected to sign Milenković’s transfer was a race for the Commissioner position.

MUP officials who spoke to the Nova.rs website said Vasiljevic aspired to the position still held by Vladimir Rebic, who would soon retire. The sources added Vasiljevic saw another official’s bid for the job as an attempt to eliminate him from the race.

The hesitation in transferring Milenkovic comes amid a smear campaign against him and his colleague Dusan Milic, who discovered four tonnes of marijuana in northern Serbia and arrested the farm owner Koluvija and his aides, that continue in pro-regime media and top officials’ statements.

The two inspectors refused to comment, and MUP said their lawyers would address the public „when the time comes.“

Koluvija was arrested in November 2019 to face charges in two Jovanjica indictments for illegally growing over four tonnes of cannabis (both dried and raw) and links to some members of Serbia’s security forces who guarded him and his farm.

He has recently been released and put under house arrest with an electronic ankle tag. Immediately after the release, he gave a TV interview to Djukanovic,

Among other things, Koluvija claimed a police officer offered him benefits if he said that the head of the state and the SNS leader Aleksandar Vucci’s brother Andrej and a controversial businessman from Kosovo Zvonko Veselinovic had been involved in the cannabis growing.

In a comment about Koluvija’s release from custody, Vucic asked how it was possible not to release someone „for 1.6 tonnes of marijuana for two years like he had killed 700 people.“