by Boris Marić
At the beginning of the year, an interesting white envelope appeared in the public. The local tycoon Duško Knežević, currently under investigation, gave it in 2016 to the former mayor of the capital and a current country President’s adviser, Slavoljub Stijepović. In January Knežević published a video of him handing over the envelope to Stijepović. According to him, the envelope contained 97,500€ aimed to finance the election campaign of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in Zeta (the municipality within the capital city). A pretty generous donation, one might say, but also – clearly illegal. The amount of the donation significantly exceeds the one allowed by the Law (2.000€). It was never reported to the authorities nor registered through the official bank account of the campaign. The Prosecution is still investigating the case. Strong public pressure and dissatisfaction caused by the administrative silence that spoke louder than words was followed by the Anti-Corruption Agency’s decision on misdemeanour liability of this party. This decision finds that failing to raise 47,500€ from private sources through an appropriate bank account and not reporting it to a responsible person within the party, was the party’s only fault. The DPS was ordered to pay these funds back to the state budget within three days. This decision is one of the very few signed by the Agency’s director. The Agency established the facts solely based on the written statement submitted by Stijepović – the main actor of the affair, against whom proceedings are being conducted for the same allegations by the Special Prosecutor’s Office. Another 50,000€ from the envelope is a mystery. Stijepović claims that Knežević was not only generous towards the party, but towards himself, and that the rest of the money was for him and his private issues. It remains to be seen whether this other 50,000€ will show up again in the investigation lead by the Prosecution.
The whole farce is brilliantly presented in the part of the APC’S ruling, where Mr. Stijepovic reveals the essence of this “noble act”: that neither he nor the president of the DPS OO Golubovci, who further distributed the money, informed the president or the party leadership about this donation. It never came to their mind that “an act of goodwill by a sympathizer and supporter of the party, who is a native of Zeta and who wanted to support his place of origin, should be anyhow reported. A deeper legal analysis here is pointless – the Agency’s decision published after ten months of hiding it, speaks for itself.
Executive Director of the Center for Civil Liberties and a founder of the Politikon Network
Read the full analysis: Elections in Montenegro: Stuck in Envelope
This text has been prepared by Boris Marić within the project “Rule of Law Reform in the Western Balkans: Reinventing the Rules of the Game” implemented by Politkon Network, in cooperation with CRTA and Tim Institute, and with the support of the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB).
About the author: Boris Marić graduated from the Faculty of Law within the University of Montenegro. He has multi-decennial work experience in politics, public authorities and the civil sector. Furthermore, he was the Minister of Labour and Social Care in the Government of electoral trust, the main legal counsellor in the Centre for Civic Education (CGO), and a representative in the City Parliament of Podgorica. Boris is the Executive Director of the Centre for Civic Liberties (CEGAS).