Branković, Bičakčić Indicted

The two were indicted in connection with a privatization scheme that allowed the FBiH prime minister to pay 900 KM for a Ciglane apartment.

Nedžad Branković, the prime minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and former Prime Minister Edhem Bičakčić were indicted Thursday by the Sarajevo Canton prosecutor’s office in connection with the purchase of an apartment in 2000.

The prime minister had no comment, according to Davor Alaupović, of the FBiH Government public relations department, because he had not seen the indictment.

The deal between the two enabled Branković to pay the equivalent of 900KM for an apartment in Sarajevo’s Ciglane neighborhood.

According to the indictment, Bičakčić and Branković are charged with abuse of office and authority. The indictment was sent to the Cantonal court in Sarajevo for confirmation.

Branković was at the time director of Energoinvest, which together with the government bought the apartment. The decision to join the government in the apartment’s purchase was signed by Branković himself.

900 KM apartment

The government bought the apartment for 264.000 KM, with 150.000 KM of it supposedly coming from Energoinvest. Branković then privatized the apartment using 46.017 KM in vouchers belonging to Brankovic’s wife Suada, which had a street value of 900 KM.

The Center for Investigative Reporting from Sarajevo (CIN) first wrote about Branković’s apartment in September of 2007. The CIN story explained exactly how the Bičakčić government practically gave the apartment away. The procedures were highly unusual.

In an interview with CIN, the former landlord said Branković visited the 132-square meter apartment and decided he wanted it. The apartment was bought by the government and Energoinvest at a price that was between 30 and 50 percent more than the going rate for similar apartments at the time. Why the government would purchase a private apartment and then make it available for almost nothing has never been answered.

Branković, as a ‘government’ employee, was given the apartment to use. One week later, he made a claim on the apartment. He was allowed to privatize it and bought it. The whole process, from the time government bought the apartment till the time Branković privatized the apartment, took less than two months. Branković told CIN he had no recollection of the details but that ‘it was done legally.’

After CIN’s stories were published in numerous newspapers and online, members of the public expressed outrage. A music video by the band Dubioza Kolektiv mocked Branković. A group of citizens started posting graffiti about the apartment in Ciglane, prompting Branković to seek police protection. Then citizens using a Facebook page raised money to put up billboards that sarcastically advertised apartments for 900 KM. The Sarajevo cantonal government said the billboards, whose structures had been up for years, didn’t meet construction laws and had them torn down.