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Notarized Crime

At least six notaries in BiH were convicted in the past seven years for misconduct in public office, falsification of documents, and endangering security. Based on the verdicts, which are not yet final, two notaries got out of the service.

In the 16 years of his notary career, Dževad Omanović from Cazin had been subject to three trials and several disciplinary proceedings, but none of this harmed his career, not even the fact that he was convicted for threatening a neighbor with a gun.

Apart from him, in the last seven years, at least five other notaries in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were convicted: Dževad Pazalja and Samir Muslić from Sarajevo, Džemanina Memagić from Zavidovići, Benjamin Ibrulj from Gradačac and Milka Đaković from Laktaši.

They were sentenced to suspended sentences, fines, and prison terms for making fictitious contracts, facilitating illegal purchase and sale of property, and committing other criminal acts, but only Pazalja and Muslić had their service terminated after the verdicts, although the verdicts are not yet final.

None of them were suspended during the trials, nor were disciplinary proceedings conducted against them after the verdicts.

Under the laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina, no one is obliged to inform the Ministry of Justice or the Chamber of Notaries about indictments and judgments against notaries, therefore some of the cases were never in the public eye.

Deferred action of the Chamber of Notaries

Dževad Omanović from Cazin served for more than twenty years as a lawyer and judge before entering notary service.  He became a notary as soon as this profession was introduced in BiH in 2007. Since then, he has been charged with criminal offenses three times. He was once convicted, once acquitted, and one of the proceedings is still pending.

In 2020, he was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence for aiming a cocked gun at his neighbor Mirsad Ademi. The conflict happened in 2007 when the Ademi family wanted to install a chimney in the shared housing building, and Omanović tried to prevent them because the smell bothered him. Ademi hit him with a metal bat, and Omanović responded by brandishing a gun, threatening to shoot, the verdict described.

In order not to serve the three-month prison sentence for endangering security, he had to demonstrate impeccable behavior for a year.

Notary Dževad Omanović was charged with three crimes: he was once acquitted, once convicted, and the third trial is still pending (Photo: CIN)

While this trial was going on, in early 2017, Omanović was charged with another criminal offense – unlawful deprivation of liberty. According to the indictment brought by the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office of the Una-Sana Canton, Omanović locked his client Ibrahim Toromanović in his office, but the court released him because it was not proven that he did it intentionally.

Dissatisfied with the services of the notary who kept asking for more money, Toromanović came to his office to collect the documents he had already paid for. Omanović told him that his working hours were over, went out, and locked the office with Toromanović remaining inside.

He claims he has not received his documents: “I’ve collected other documents and that’s it. What could I do?”

While on trial, Omanović continued working although, at the end of 2018, the Ministry of Justice and Administration of the Una-Sana Canton sent the FBiH Chamber of Notaries a request for his “temporary suspension from service” because he was on trial for two criminal offenses at the time, but nothing happened.

While cantonal ministries appoint notaries, disciplinary proceedings and suspension are decided by the Entity Chamber as a professional association. Only three and a half years later the Chamber decided not to carry out the proceedings because the cases against Omanović had been concluded in the meantime.

In this case, the Ministry was aware of the indictments and trials against this notary, but it could easily have been otherwise because, as Assistant Minister Vahid Ćoralić says, judicial institutions are not obliged to inform the Ministry about criminal proceedings against notaries.

The Chamber was not as expedient in other disciplinary proceedings against this notary either, which were initiated by the Ministry based on reports from his clients. On average, the FBIH Chamber of Notaries takes six months to three and a half years to render first-instance decision in a case. Disciplinary proceedings can last up to ten years when the court’s decision is awaited.

“Each disciplinary council is independent in its work and it works based on the principle of penal councils. It is a two-tier proceeding, and panels consider cases as they see fit”, says the former president of the FBiH Chamber of Notaries, Anica Nakić, adding that the law did not determine the length of disciplinary proceedings against notaries.

From 2012 to 2022, citizens and companies reported Omanović for working both as a notary and a lawyer, taking money from a trust account, and not issuing documents.

In three disciplinary proceedings, he was twice fined – with BAM 2,500 and BAM 25,000, but these decisions have never become final: once due to being time-barred and twice due to procedural errors.

According to Omanović, these proceedings were groundless, and he firmly stands, as he said, behind what he says and signs as a notary: “The moment when this is no longer the case, I will accept that I can no longer serve as a notary”, he told for CIN.

However, his business transactions are still under the scrutiny of the USC prosecutor’s office, which in late 2021 brought a third indictment against him – this time for abuse of position or authority and falsification of an official document.

Notary Dževad Omanović Acquitted Due To Charges Being Time-Barred
The Municipal Court in Cazin has dismissed the charges against notary Dževad Omanović for abuse of office and forgery of an official document due to these charges being time-barred. This verdict is subject to appeal.

The Prosecution claims that in the summer of 2008, he lent Mirsad Adilagić 15,000 euros with an interest of 7,500 euros to be repaid by the end of the year. According to the indictment, the money was not paid back within the agreed term, so Omanović abused his position as a notary and created documents with false content to get his money back. His school friend Asim Kapić helped him in this endeavor.

According to these documents, Adilagić borrowed 22,500 euros from Kapić and agreed that the debt can be settled through real estate worth about BAM 700 thousand, which is pledged by Adilagić’s brother Muhamed.

“I don’t know Kapić at all. I know him by sight”, Muhamed Adilagić told CIN reporters, claiming that he signed a blank piece of paper, which the notary gave him as a confirmation of the loan they had agreed on in his office, after which he expected to sign the contract.

“It’s mistake of my life”, says Adilagić.

Omanović claims he had nothing to do with the loan and that he was just doing his job: he drew up a mortgage agreement and certified the loan agreement between Adilagić and Kapić: “My stance is that I am completely innocent until proven otherwise”, he claims.

However, the investigators did not find the original documents either with him or with the clients, and expert testimony showed that the signatures in the notary’s book did not belong to Adilagić.

In the meantime, in 2011, the Cazin Municipal Court based on the notarized contract and the request of Asim Kapić, initiated debt collection by selling Adilagić’s real estate, but the enforcement was suspended because it was determined that the original contract did not exist.

Adilagić’s property will remain blocked until the finalization of the criminal proceedings.

“I only give money to lawyers and nothing else. I can’t do anything else”, says Adilagić.

In early 2022, the Ministry of Justice and Administration of the USC again addressed the FBiH Chamber of Notaries regarding notary Omanović. They submitted an initiative for his suspension until the finalization of the criminal proceedings. It took a year for the Chamber to make that decision, which is still not final.

“You have to understand, if he is a civil servant, he is like a polar bear..(..) It means he is fully protected”, says Adilagić.

The money loan from 2008 could have cost Muhamed Adilagić and his brother their property” (Photo: CIN)

A notary in the service of Milorad Dodik

After being convicted of a criminal offense, the notary Milka Đaković from Laktaši also remained in the service.

In 2018, she was sentenced to a BAM 4,000 fine for obstructing justice in a criminal proceeding. Namely, she decided not to provide the State Agency for Investigation and Protection (SIPA) with data on real estate transactions involving the then-president of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik and his wife Snježana.

At the time, SIPA investigated Dodik on the behest of the BiH Prosecutor’s Office on suspicion of money laundering, and Đaković had in her possession a real estate exchange contract and a power of attorney for the purchase and sale of real estate in Serbia, but she decided not to share it with the investigators.

Instead, she warned Dodik about being subject to an investigation, and told that she would “keep the contract out of sight”.

“Dodik is my client, not only him but his entire family. I told him what they asked for and what I gave them”, says Đaković.

She was not suspended during the trial, nor was she subject to disciplinary actions following the verdict.

Đaković claims she did not commit any criminal offense but she confessed to everything in order to avoid court proceedings and receive a fine through a settlement. “As a professional, I knew it would have no reflection on my liability or my work as a notary.”

Namely, under the RS Law on Notaries, a fine is not a reason for dismissal. Although refusing to provide documents at the request of the competent body constitutes a serious disciplinary offense punishable by fine or dismissal, the RS Chamber of Notaries did not react because, as they said, the Ministry of Justice did not ask them to do so, while the Ministry of Justice claimed to have known nothing about the verdict. According to Đaković, the verdict was deleted from the criminal record in 2021.

Today, she is sitting on the Supervisory Board of the Chamber and is a member of the Commission supervising the work of notaries in the RS. She was also a member of the Commission for professional training of Notaries.

A Difficult Journey To Indemnify Losses Caused by Notarial Errors
The path to indemnification of damages caused by a notarial error is an uncertain one. Proving is difficult, and even when clients succeed, notaries look for ways to avoid payment.

Disputed documents ran valid even after the verdict

Džemanina Memagić from Zavidovići and Benjamin Ibrulj from Gradačac were convicted for abuse of position or authority and falsification of documents. They no longer work as notaries, but the documents for which they were convicted are still valid.

In 2020, Memagić received a ten-month suspended prison sentence with a two-year probationary period. Four years earlier, she made a purchase agreement in the absence of the land co-owner Meliha Sarajlić, who had been signed on her behalf by her brother, without a power of attorney.

She claimed it was a mistake, but not such that should trigger a criminal proceeding.

“I am not making excuses, it shouldn’t have happened, but it did. It was December, it was very busy, I was fatigued, there was something else that happened to me then, I don’t remember what it was,” says Memagić, adding that there were no regular controls that would warn the notaries of their mistakes.

After the verdict, Memagić decided to end her career as a notary and move into politics and attend postgraduate studies.  She tried to become a lawyer, but the FBiH Bar Association considered her unworthy due to the verdict. She says that the verdict was later erased from the criminal record, and today she is not without a job.

Džemanina Memagić from Zavidovići deleted the suspended sentence from her criminal record and today she is considered a person without convictions (Photo: CIN)

Notary Benjamin Ibrulj was convicted in 2016 for drawing up a contract with untrue information under which Alija Selimović donated property to her brother. He was sentenced to a six-month suspended prison sentence with a five-year probationary period.

During the trial, it was established that Alija was on his deathbed at the time of signing, unable to speak or sign the contract, hence the contract was authenticated with a fingerprint. The court concluded that he could not understand the provisions of the contract and that no one witnessed the signing, although notary Ibrulj stated otherwise in the contract.

Ibrulj still believes he did everything right and that the contract was the will of his client: “I know that I am right and completely worthy”

He retired three months after the verdict, and the Tuzla Canton Ministry of Justice admitted to having first heard about this case from CIN reporters.

Dismissed by a decision that is not yet final

Of the six convicted notaries, only two were dismissed, but the decisions on their dismissal are not yet final.

In 2018, Samir Muslić from Sarajevo was convicted for forging notary contracts by which the former Minister of Police of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Delimustafić, resold other people’s land in Sarajevo, thus damaging the real owner, the Agricultural Cooperative Sarajevsko Polje, for more than two million BAM.

As a result, Muslić was sentenced to five months in prison and a BAM 30,000 fine, and the Ministry of Justice and Administration of Sarajevo Canton dismissed him from office two years later. Ever since, he has been trying to challenge the decision in court in order to stay in the notary business, claiming that his dismissal was groundless because he never went to prison but instead he bought off the prison sentence for a BAM 15,000.

In the meantime, he applied for a public notary position in the Zenica-Doboj canton, but he did not speak for CIN.

A legally binding decision on the termination of the notary’s service was not issued in the case of Dževad Pazalja either. He lost his job in 2021 after he was sentenced to one year in prison with a two-year probationary period because he made a mortgage agreement without adequate power of attorney. Pazalja challenged the service termination decision to keep his job.

“I would not like to comment on anything. Let the court do its job, we’ll see in the end. Justice will prevail. It will take time, but justice will prevail, for sure”, says Pazalja.

In the meantime, the courts in Sarajevo annulled three notary documents that Pazalja made for other clients, and the Sarajevo Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office charged him again in 2020 for misconduct in public office. Prosecutors claim he allowed a client to sell marital property based on a false power of attorney. Pazalja was acquitted in May this year.

The Cantonal Ministry in Sarajevo asked the FBiH Chamber of Notaries to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Pazalja, but the Chamber refused on the grounds that “the description of the actions that constitute a disciplinary offense was not specified”.

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