Former FBiH Minister of agriculture, waterworks and forestry and a vice-president of the People’s Party Work for Betterment Jerko Ivanković-Lijanović was arrested today on suspicion of abuse of office and authority in the course of paying out agricultural subsidies.
Others arrested are Mersed Šerifović, also a vice-president of the party and a legislator with Tuzla Cantonal (TK) Assembly; Suad Čamdžić, former Lijanović’s advisor; Edin Ajanović, former minister of agriculture, waterworks and forestry and a current minister of trade, tourism and traffic in TK government, and a John Doe.
Lijanović is suspected of organizing a group, during his ministerial tenure, whose members blackmailed farmers.
According to a press release from a Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office in Tuzla, the group’s members forced farmers to pay back half of a subsidy they received between 2011 and the end of 2014.
“There’s ground for suspicion that Lijanović and his associates illegally gained around 700,000 KM during this period and by putting the screws to farmers they tried to obtain a larger amount of money to which some farmers did not bow to,” says in the press release.
The prosecutor’s office has filed another 12 indictments against the subsidy beneficiaries who received them for capital investment in agriculture in 2012. They are charged with a criminal offence of fraud because they did not invest the funds and thus have incurred illegal gain of 530,000 KM.
The Work for Betterment party issued a press release that said these arrests were political and the product of a campaign that has been waged against the party.
The Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo uncovered earlier that the FBIH taxpayer money set aside for subsidies has gone to voters and members of the party, including persons who are not at all involved in agriculture and who have made no investment into it either.
In September last year, Lijanović was arrested together with his brothers and father on suspicion of organized crime and tax evasion. The investigation was launched after the Indirect Taxation Authority of BiH filed a criminal report against them on charges of setting up and fictitiously winding up a firm that helped them evade paying taxes.