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HomeBalkansBelgrade Paid for Lawyers Defending Kosovo Serbs Accused of Corruption, Documents Reveal

Belgrade Paid for Lawyers Defending Kosovo Serbs Accused of Corruption, Documents Reveal

In at least two court cases in 2021, the Serbian government used its budget to fund the legal defence of corruption defendants in Kosovo courts, documents obtained by BIRN Kosovo’s website Kallxo.com have revealed.

Documents that BIRN has obtained through requests for access to public documents in Leposavic municipality show the procedures and the amount of funds that Serbia authorities dedicated to the defence of the people in question.

The Office for Kosovo within Serbia’s government did not reply to BIRN’s request for comment by the time of publication.

The Pristina Basic Court said it does not interfere in the issue of legal representation deals between lawyers and defendants. The Kosovo Bar Association also did not reply by the time of publication.

The files show that five Kosovo-licensed lawyers, three Albanians and two Serbs, received funds from Serbia’s government to defend Kosovo Serbs accused of corruption-related charges.

Kosovo’s law obliges the country’s Judicial Council to cover legal fees for defendants who are not able to pay for legal representation but the defendants did not use this opportunity, opting instead for a neighbouring country’s public funds.

Mitrovica-based lawyer Shyqyri Syla admitted in a written answer that, in July 2011, Jelica Barac, who was accused of misuse of office in Leposavic municipality, contacted him.

Syla was head Prosecutor for the Mitrovica region until May 2011, when he exceeded the legal retirement age.

Documents show that months after, Serbia’s government issued a bill of 69,000 Serbia dinars (around 590 euros, according to the current exchange rate) to cover Syla’s services.

Syla told BIRN that Barac had contacted him in July 2021 asking for his legal services, and he had never met her before.

He provided BIRN with a bill worth of 2,500 euros, which he received from the defendant in August this year, which was allocated to his bank account in Mitrovica

“I am not aware if these funds were reimbursed to the defendant as it did not interest me, because I received the payment from the defendant,” Syla said in his written answer.

Barac has passed away in the meantime.

Asdren Hoxha, another lawyer, according to the files, received 94,500 Serbian dinars (805 euros) in three bills found. He declined to comment. “I don’t have any interest to be part of your show,” Hoxha told a BIRN journalist in a phone conversation.

Among the documents found in Hoxha’s file was a decision of the Director of the Kosovo Office within Serbia’s government, Petar Petkovic, to hire Kosovo lawyers, while the bills were signed by Zoran Todic, head of Leposavic municipality, a body broadly known in Kosovo as a Serbia-run parallel structure.

Documents hold the logo of parallel institutions under the inscription, “Republic of Serbia – Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija”.

His file shows that the bills were handed over in Kosovo’s central municipality of Gracanica and then sent to Leposavic, where they have been archived.

Hoxha has provided legal representation to a defendant accused of being part of a group of ethnic Albanian and ethnic Serbs members of the Kosovo Police accused of smuggling. The trial is ongoing at Pristina Basic Court.

Another lawyer BIRN contacted, Faruk Korenica, said that he was not aware that funds for his defendant were coming from Serbia’s government.

“What I do care is that the agreement … and the money come to my account. I don’t care if the defendant takes money from his father, or uncle, or from Serbia’s government,” Korenica said.

Source : Balkan Insight

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