- Police officer is accused of taking money from private businessmen in order not to ticket them.
- The investigation showed that former Commissioner of the Interior Ministry (MUP) facilitated deleting and reducing offenses to some individuals.
- After exposing corruption in the MUP, police officer was disciplined.
Drivers of often defective lorries overloaded with logs take the forest roads towards the main road in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in the northwest of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), risking high fines.
Elvedin Džigum, a police officer of the Interior Ministry of the Una-Sana Canton (MUPUSK), knows of this but instead of writing them a ticket, he was taking bribes to turn the blind eye to these offenses.
“It was impossible to avoid him in the morning. We would sometimes stop on our own because if we would drive by, he would get into the car and follow us and stop us in the middle of the road” recounted Stefan Matijaš, driver of the Prijedor company VB Progres. Therefore, the drivers started bribing him.
In April 2022, the Cantonal Prosecutor charged Džigum with taking bribes in 2021. He was covered up and protected by his colleague Slavko Šobot and former PD Commanders of Bosanski Petrovac and Bihać Nermin Mahmutspahić and Šemsudin Dedić.
However, CIN journalists discovered that this officer was not taking money from drivers only. At least six owners of wood transport companies told reporters that for years they had been giving money to Džigum, bringing him pellets and chipped wood, and paying for his meals, despite roadside controls. In return, he would let their trucks drive on and reduce or erase their tickets. They claim Džigum asked for hundreds of marks on behalf of his superiors in the MUP.
“We have a party, ask the boss if he could chip in with a lamb”, recalled the owner of the VB Progres company Vjekoslav Bašić how the driver conveyed Džigum’s message after one of the encounters on the road.
In 2019, the transporters reported the police racketeering to Mujo Koričić, the then Commissioner of the MUP USK, but he did not react to it. While aware of the allegations that Džigum was racketeering the transporters, the police have been rewarded him for outstanding performance. The investigation against the MUP officers was launched after they were exposed by their colleague Milica Latinović.
According to the data from the investigation, through Džigum, Koričić made sure that traffic tickets issued to his friend, who owns a wood transport company, be deleted or reduced. Yet, the Commissioner eluded the indictment but he was later labeled as Džigum’s accomplice.
Commissioner Koričić told reporters that he did not know about his illegal actions, and Džigum denies taking money from anyone.
Through The Driver To The Owner
Officer Elvedin Džigum from PD Bosanski Petrovac would come to work an hour before the start of the shift, around five in the morning. “To be late for work, no, that could never happen to me,” he told CIN journalists.
The investigation established that even if he was assigned to the second shift, Commissioner Koričić or Commander Dedić from Bihać would intervene with their colleague Mahmutspahić to put him back to the first shift.
However, his daybreak shifts hide a story of interest for the Una-Sana Canton Prosecutor’s Office. Džigum would be waiting woodcutters with their lorries to come out of the forest and drive through Bravsko, and ticket them if they were overloaded or defective.
The driver Matijaš says that he heard about Džigum from his colleagues even before his company started transporting wood through Bosanski Petrovac. He had a reputation as an officer who would forgive to ticket in replace of money.
When he stopped him for the first time, Matijaš accepted the ticket and did not bribe him.
“Then he started spinning out, mentioning extraordinary technical inspection of the vehicle, this and that. It would take us a whole day to take two lorries to the extraordinary technical inspection. He was just holding us back. Then we started leaving BAM 10-20 in the folded registration certificate”
USK Prosecutor’s Office charged officers Džigum and Šobot, the Commanders Mahmutspahić and Dedić with abuse of position or authority with which they obtained benefits for wood transporters. Šobot was entering the tickets Džigum had previously reduced into the official database, while Mahmutspahić and Dedić were ordering that the offense records not be processed or to be destroyed.
Džigum is accused of taking bribes from drivers of at least 17 companies 70 times from April to June 2021. He maintained good relations with those who gave more. He would notify them when the patrol was on the road, and then subsequently he would charge for that service.
According to the indictment, he took most of the money from the driver of the company Medeks-Prom from Šipovo. The company owner, Vladimir Medić, knew that his drivers were paying bribes and thereby breaking the law, but according to him, this was the only way to protect his company’s operations.
Over time, Džigum’s appetite grew, so he asked company owners for larger sums of money through their drivers.
“He asked me to tell my boss to send some money and thus chip in for a party or something. He was throwing a party for the police, his colleagues, hence, to give a contribution for a lamb or drinks. He asked [money] from another person from Prijedor, and I carried it for him,” says driver Matijaš.
The owner of VB Progres company Bašić confirmed that he was sending the money through the driver to Džigum – BAM 150 from Bašić and BAM 150 from Zoran Zec from Drvo Export-Import company from Prijedor. On another occasion, Zec gave Džigum between BAM 300 and 400 for both of them.
“He would call me randomly, saying that he was passing through Prijedor and he needed some [money] for mutton. He was saying that he had bosses, his commanders, and they needed some money for lamb”, said Zec. After they gave him the money, Džigum was more lenient towards their drivers and “at least he didn’t harass them” when he stopped them.
The regulations allow wood transporters to transport half-loaded trucks, but this does not pay for them, which is why they agreed to pay bribes. USK Prosecutor Adnan Tulić says that Džigum often forgave wood transporters for trucks overloaded with expensive oak.
Boro Savanović, a wood transporter from Ribnik, tells how he was taken aback during his first meeting with Džigum.
“I did ask if he could avoid the scale. He said that we could, but I would have to give him something for his [colleagues]. I had BAM 120 in my pocket”
Savanović said that officer took the money, but nevertheless put the logs on the scale and wrote him a BAM 1,500 ticket for the excessive load.
The investigation data show that Džigum reminded the wood transporters almost every day that they were obliged to give him BAM 10-20 or send some money for lamb or pay for his breakfast.
The owner of the company, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that Džigum ate meals he sponsored at Ado’s Pizzeria in Bosanski Petrovac. On his suggestion, the journalists asked the waiter for bills and found out that Džigum took four kilograms of burek worth BAM 40 and he billed it to the name of the above-mentioned company owner.
“Whenever I worked with him, he would never let me pay for anything. Everything was already paid for,” said officer Latinović, who has worked with Džigum in shifts since 2018.
The story of the “Lamb for the Bosses in Bihać” is well-known among company owners who agreed to pay a bribe to drive more freely with overloaded vehicles and thereby make more profit. For them, this was a better option than paying fines that reach up to several thousand marks.
“99% of the lorries on the BiH roads are ticketable. It means that 99% of the lorries in Bosnia and Herzegovina are defective. Mine are defective, and they drive every day across the whole of Bosnia and the RS, hence I cannot blame it on the state or the law or complain that this is not right”, says wood transporter Samir Majser, whose offense was cleared by Džigum.
However, some drivers avoided going through Bosanski Petrovac. The President of the Association of Transporters of the Republika Srpska (RS), Nikola Grbić, says that many transporters gave up because they “couldn’t bear it”.
Aware of their problems, Džigum used every opportunity to extort money. One such opportunity appeared in March 2021, when many wood transporters gathered at the petrol station in Petrovac after the funeral of one of their colleagues. Among them was Mirko Glavić, the owner of the Drvorez company from Ljubačevo, who gave Džigum BAM 150.
“He came. He was on police patrol and we were at the petrol station. He sees bosses and jeeps. It wasn’t like they’d been trying to hide something. They all chipped in, all ten of them. They were collecting for a party. I don’t even know what kind of party it was,” said Glavić.
CIN journalists talked to dozens of wood company owners, but some refused to talk about their relationship with Džigum for fear of reprisal. Džigum denies taking rackets and bribes.
Protection of Officers And Private Businesses
Mujo Koričić became police commissioner in 2014, right after Ramo Brkić who was sentenced for for production and trade in narcotics and abuse of office. He was retired in October 2022.
The investigation showed that former Commissioner Mujo Koričić facilitated the deletion and reduction of offenses for some business owners. However, even though the Municipal Court in Bihać prohibited him, as an abettor, from meeting with Džigum due to possible influence on witnesses, he eluded the indictment of the USK Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Tulić did not want to explain to the journalists why the commissioner was not charged, even though evidence confirmed that he was an accomplice.
Koričić asked the Court to correct the “obvious mistake” in which he was labeled as an accomplice. He claimed to CIN journalists that the judge of the Municipal Court in Bihać, Nisveta Gluhalić, promised his lawyer that she would correct the mistake. However, the Court rejected his appeal, and judge Gluhalić told reporters that she fully stands behind her decision.
Koričić spoke to journalists before he retired. He reluctantly answered the questions of CIN journalists about this: “Let them prove it. (…) Someone should have arrested me (…) I will file a claim for damages because I was harmed here, my reputation was damaged, and whatnot”.
Koričić does not rule out the possibility that Džigum took advantage of their friendship: “I am a normal person, holding the most responsible position. You cannot remain indifferent now when you hear a story that someone may be abusing your trust”.
He also says that he did not previously know about illegal activities in PD Bosanski Petrovac, and that Džigum is the best police officer in terms of work results. Friendship with him, he says, is his private matter.
“If I am friends with Džigum, and we meet privately with families, etc. It is not a place to talk about the work”.
Džigum told reporters that he is “on good terms” with the Commissioner. Shaken but willing to tell his story, he avoided answering questions about the racketeering of wood transporters during the several-hour conversation.
“I didn’t take the money,” he said briefly and continued talking about his awards and recognitions, which he had collected over 30 years of service.
However, investigation shows that Koričić through Commanders Mahmutspahić and Dedić, and officer Džigum reduced or deleted offenses for his longtime friend Kerim Silnović. Silnović’s company Asiks buys the largest volume of wood from state forests in the area of Bosanski Petrovac – 20,000 cubic meters per year.
“Kerim Silnović is like a polar bear, protected by the top of the MUP USK. He has a large number of heavy trucks that are not controlled by anyone, neither inspection nor police because it is well known – the patrol that stops Kerim Silnović ends up on guard duty or desk duty or is reassigned to Bihać”, explained Latinović, who witnessed such situations.
In 2021, Silnović testified in the Unsko-Sanske šume case against the former director of this company, Đevad Muslimović. He said in court that he gave him tens of thousands of marks to get an additional amount of wood, but he was never held accountable for giving bribes.
During the investigation in this case in 2016, it was suspected that Džigum was taking money from drivers even then, but there were not enough witnesses and evidence to initiate the investigation.
“At that time, some individuals who transport wood assortments told us about big problems they have with Džigum. It was about racketeering,” recalls former MUP officer Mirhad Abdijanović, who worked on this investigation.
Officer Šobot, who was charged together with Džigum, confirmed to journalists that his colleague reduced most of Silnović’s offenses, but nobody dared confront him because he would threaten them with the Commissioner.
Šobot says that he “never received a single penny” from Džiga, but that he knowingly entered the PCNs Džigum revised into the system. He complained about this to the deputy commander of PD Bosanski Petrovac, Ibrahim Terzić, but he did not react.
“He was unassailable. The police Commissioner would call him to help this and that or let someone go”, recalled the young officer Latinović who worked with Džigum on a shift.
Terzić and Silnović refused to talk to journalists.
The investigation showed that the drivers were bringing wood and pellets for Džigum, and most often they were unloading it in the area of Silnović’s company. Policewoman Latinović recalls the way a private businessman addressed to her with the question on one occasion: “Was the pellet good? What pellet, I asked. Well, I brought you and Džigum a ton of pellets each. I do not fire pellets in my house, I said”
Wood transporters and police officers revealed to CIN journalists that in 2012 Džigum was transporting Silnović’s timber for the Commissioner’s cottage in Bihać. Koričić does not deny that this happened, but he told reporters that it is not right to mix his private life with his job.
“Just like everyone else, I have to build, I have to make, I have to spend money, I have to provide for my existence. Therefore, don’t go into those things,” said Koričić.
The investigation showed that Silnović, through his acquaintance with the Commissioner and Džigum, also helped other wood transporters, by solving their fines over the phone.
Namely, Džigum instructed officer Latinović not to punish the wood transporters who drive for Silnović or when he calls for them. She revealed to SIPA inspectors that Džigum took money from Silnović at meetings in restaurants in Petrovac.
Pressure On The Policewoman
After Milica Latinović exposed corruption in the police, the MUP USK launched disciplinary action against her, while ignoring the reports against Džigum that came years before he was accused.
She recalls that everything was fine until Koričić appointed Enver Alibegović as the Commander of the police department during the autumn 2021: “My performance was always rated highest – grade 5. I have never been subject to disciplinary actions or anything like that. However, in two three months after Alibegović came in, I started receiving disciplinary reports.”
Latinović was first punished for a minor breach of official duty for improper behavior towards a colleague because she inquired about Commander Alibegović and checked his Facebook profile. She complained to the Police Committee of the USK Government, which upheld her complaint and canceled the disciplinary sanction.
“When Enver Alibegović came to Petrovac, he was seen several times meeting with Elvedin Džigum in public places,” says Latinović.
Alibegović previously worked as an assistant to former Bihać Commander Dedić, who is also accused in this case. The two were close to Džigum, as police officer Mirhad Abdijanović testified to CIN journalists. He says that the three of them hung out “over trays of meat” in the police office.
“It no longer looked like an office, but like a private pub, a boozer place from the outskirts. It smelled like meat, sometimes it smelled like alcohol,” Abdijanović described.
Alibegović and Dedić did not want to talk to journalists.
Three days after the first disciplinary, MUP requested that Latinović should be disciplined again because, according to their allegations, she hired two acquaintances to photograph Commissioner Koričić in the “Hula Hop” restaurant, where he was sitting together with Alibegović, Džigum and Silnović in December 2021, after which the photo was published on social networks.
After this meeting, the Municipal Court in Bihać issued a restraining order against Koričić. He was already suspended at the time because he was subject to an investigation.
Džigum and Koričić describe this meeting like any other, but the stories they told to journalists do not match. Koričić says that that day he went to breakfast with the new commander Alibegović, and then Džigum stopped by. But Džigum claims otherwise: “Man (author’s note: Koričić) called me, saying “come over for coffee”. I was not under a meeting ban. I was not. Why wouldn’t I have a coffee?”.
Koričić does not see anything objectionable in the fact that he met with the accused police officer and private businessmen: “We have many situations where people were deprived of their freedom, prosecuted, and then released. Everyone is accountable within the limits of their intentions. Everyone is responsible for their actions”.
The Commissioner told reporters that the investigation proved that Latinović hired Dario Kecman to take the photo, while he says that it did not happen.
“I may have been holding the phone, but I wasn’t taking pictures or anything. They brought me in like the biggest criminal and forced me to admit that Milica had bribed me to do it. I was forced by the deputy commander (author’s note Mahmutspahić). They wanted to set me up for something I didn’t do,” said Kecman, whose phone contained no image from this restaurant, as the police search showed.
While charging its employees for posts on social networks, the MUP USK ignored the corruption reports against officer Džigum.
In 2019, MUP USK awarded Džigum by presenting him a “wristwatch with dedication” for his special efforts and achievements in the execution of work tasks. In the same year, the RS Transport Association reported him to Commissioner Koričić for racketeering.
“I asked the Commissioner to try to rein that officer – that kind of irregularity, I don’t know what to call it, arrogance, arbitrariness or whatnot – to simply put an end to it,” said the president of the Association, Nikola Grbić.
There was no reaction from the Commissioner. He told reporters that the report from the Association was without concrete facts and evidence, and avoided further discussion on this topic.
“They are all nice for as long as you accommodate them. The moment they are charged a fine, it is a problem,” Koričić commented on the transporters’ reports.
The Association’s report was forwarded to PD Bosanski Petrovac. However, the then Commander Mahmutspahić did not respond to the report of the transporters either, nor did he initiate an investigation. He too refused to talk to CIN journalists.
The Commissioner says that it is not clear to him why Latinović did not share the information about Džigum with him: “I welcome everything that is aimed at fighting corruption and cleaning up the police ranks and all public institutions. I can’t be (…) I am annoyed that she did not address me first. Why didn’t she?”, asked Koričić.
Latinović says that she didn’t trust him or the superiors at the police department: “I would do it all the same again.”