Retired Judge says Telekom Serbia-Telenor deal suspect

NEWS 10.02.2021 17:09

Serbian Anti-Corruption Council member, retired judge Jelisaveta Vasilic told N1 on Wednesday that a lot of things in the Telekom Serbia – Telenor contract are suspect.

“I think that a lot of things are suspect in regard to that contract. The first thing that is disputable is how Telekom, a state company, can transfer the right to use assets to a third party? Under this contract, Telekom is transferring its rights to Telenor and Telekom does not own telecommunications networks and cannot transfer its right to use them to a third party without permission from the state and the Property Directorate. I think that is the first thing that should be discussed whether Telekom can dispose of assets and hand telecommunications networks to others such as to Telenor,” she said.

Vasilic said that all other aspects of the contract – competition, corruption, how it was signed with no transparency – have to be determined by the government because Telekom is majority state-owned. According to her, the government also has to determine how the contract was signed, who gave Telekom permission. “That had to come from the government or a minister or anyone else at that level. They had to give permission for Telekom to sign the contract because this is about public property. If the government or minister’s don’t do that, a prosecutor can act under criminal charges because disposing of public property in that way is not allowed,” Vasilic said.

She said that the fact that Telekom is a shareholders’ society does not have bearing on property, adding that just 20 percent of Telekom shares are held by private individuals while the state owns 58 percent. “This is about ownership of telecommunications equipment. As a state owned company, Telekom has to take care of state property which is not the case, she said. Vasilic said that she read the contract and added that she thinks it was signed as if Telekom was privately owned. “The Telekom company is not owned by (CEO) Lucic nor (President Aleksandar) Vucic, it is a state-owned company of which we, the citizens, are the owners and the government manages it in our name,” she said.

Asked about the Anti-Corruption Council report on an earlier deal between Telekom and businessman Igor Zezelj’s Wireless Media company, Vasilic said that she did her part but that the Council failed to agree on what to say in its report about the deal that she feels was corrupt. Wireless Media received millions of Euro from Telekom, enabling it to set up its own TV. “I will say openly what I think – that contract was very corruptive and an investigation should have been launched. We did not agree and the report was never published,” she said.

On Tuesday, Vasilic received the European Movement in Serbia award for Contribution of the Year to Europe 2020 for setting an example in combating corruption and fighting for rule of law.

“Fighting crime is hard everywhere and battling corruption is even harder for me. It thought about whether I deserve the award before the ceremony because I read in a report that the perception of corruption has been rising since 2015. We’re not getting better, things are getting worse,” she said.