New Indictment against Dragan Čović

The Prosecutor's Office of Sarajevo Canton filed an indictment against Dragan Čović, president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for abuse of official authority yesterday. The Cantonal Court in Sarajevo has an eight-day deadline to confirm it or toss it out.

More than three years have passed since the trial of this case ended before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), which advised the BiH Prosecutor’s Office to refer this case to a court that had jurisdiction. Some evidence went missing when the case was moved from the state to the cantonal level, which the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) has written about.

Boxes, binders and folders were transported at least nine times among the three institutions mainly without the required list of the enumerated documents. This is why it’s difficult to establish who was responsible for the loss of evidence, prosecution officials say.

In November 2006, the Court of BiH sentenced Čović, pending appeal, for allowing firms owned by the Lijanović family to avoid more than 1.8 million KM in customs levies. Čović was the Federation of BiH minister of finances at the time.

He was sentenced based on one of two documents. The second document offering evidence the firms skipped out on another 36.9 million KM in levies was not considered by the court because it was only a copy. The ministry could not find the original.

During an appeal the Appeal Chamber of the Court of BiH pronounced itself without jurisdiction in June 2008.

The cantonal Prosecutor’s Office did not want to comment on how the lack of evidence affected the new indictment. Officials said that they did not conduct a new investigation but filed the new indictment on the basis of the BiH Prosecutor’s Office earlier work and evidence that the Court of BiH had accepted earlier.

Dragan Slijepčević, an expert with the cantonal Prosecutor’s Office, said that the content of the indictment would be published only if confirmed by the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo.

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