- Two criminal reports resulted in no investigation.
- Promotional texts were sufficient confirmation of credibility.
- Federation Police Administration (FUP) inspector unlawfully seized the evidence.
Sixty-six-year-old Sarajevan Edhem Peratović told police inspectors that in April 2021 he gave six thousand BAM to Ajša Ramić, the co-owner of the Forrtuna Administrative Bureau, who promised to act as an intermediary in his purchase of the municipal apartment in which he lived with his family. Since Ramić neither honored her promise nor did she return the money, Peratović went to the police.
Ramić was reported to the police and prosecutor by clients and associates at least five times during the past two years, mostly for fraud. The Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office twice decided not to initiate an investigation, while the Federation Police Administration (FUP) compromised the investigation upon the third report by collecting evidence without a warrant. Other reports are still pending before the Prosecutor’s Office.
In the meantime, Ramić entered into a partnership with Merjem Mirsada Veladžić. Promising to facilitate the US visa acquisition process, the two collected at least US$140,000 from clients to whom in return they presented forged US Embassy documents. After several months of cooperation, Veladžić reported Ramić to the Federation Police Administration.
Following the release of this story, CIN was contacted by readers who were former customers of Ramić’s services, and who claimed to have been defrauded by her in other affairs. Some agreed to speak publicly about their experiences.
In early 2020, Ajša Ramić, who hold an MA degree in law, and her friend and colleague Selma Sarvan founded the Forrtuna Administrative Bureau in Sarajevo, offering legal representation services. Ramić was responsible for queuing and obtaining documents for clients, while Sarvan communicated with clients and worked on tasks from the office. The fear of the coronavirus kept people at home, so business was thriving for these young entrepreneurs.
Ramić, however, decided to expand the business. “She didn’t stop at a Land Registry excerpt, …[she claimed] to have connections in municipalities, and that she can arrange for this and that”, recalls Sarvan.
Faced with problems related to the legalization of the family house in Sarajevo, Selma Sarvan’s father Dževad and her uncle Nedžad Smajović hired the Bureau, believing that Ramić could help them.
She confidently explained to them that the legalization of buildings entails very simple tasks and that she is experienced in the matters, which the Smajović brothers were very delighted to hear. In April 2020, they granted her power of attorney and made a deposit. “I gave her 250, and my brother gave her 400 BAM,” says Nedžad.
He even recommended to his brother-in-law, a demobilized veteran, to hire Ramić to help him purchase the municipal apartment in which he lived.
“Word was that there is an agency, and people talked about it in trolleybuses and elsewhere. The woman says she has connections everywhere and can arrange anything, so I went to see it out of curiosity. But that curiosity cost me big time”, says Smajović’s brother-in-law Edhem Peratović.
He recalls borrowing money to pay a total of 6,000 BAM in cash to ensure a positive decision at the Novi Grad Municipality in Sarajevo.
“She (Ramić, author’s note) knew how to tell a story. You simply go speechless when she talks. (…) She even called me saying that I would need to reward her as the messenger bringing the good news, but nothing came of it.”
Ramić submitted the request on his behalf, but the claims about a positive outcome did not come true. Peratović did not get approval to purchase the apartment from the Municipality, and he claims the lawyer did not return the money he gave her for the “guaranteed outcome”. The Smajović brothers did not legalize the house either.
Seeing that Ramić is not delivering all the tasks as easily as she claimed she would have and that clients frequently complain and ask for refunds due to failed deals, Sarvan decided to give up her share in the company and leave the job after a year of cooperation.
After leaving the partnership, Sarvan, together with Peratović and Smajović, pressured Ramić to return to them their money, so in February 2021, Ramić notarized a statement promising that Forrtuna would return six thousand BAM. Since she failed to return the money, Peratović reported her to the Sarajevo Canton Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUPKS) for fraud, and Smajović and Sarvan went with him to the PD Ilidža police station as witnesses.
“That’s when hell broke loose for me. (…) Ajša lived [in an apartment] above me. For four months she was constantly ringing on my intercom, knocking on my doors, says Sarvan, recalling that Ramić later rang her to tell her that they [Peratović and Smajović] would never see the money.
“She started threatening to send some individuals after me.”
In the summer of 2021, after Sarvan reported her to the police, Ramić physically attacked her former friend and colleague.
“Ajša got out of the car and started walking behind me, cursing and screaming who do I think I was to report her”, recalls Sarvan.
Neighbors filmed Ramić aggressively grabbing and pulling her hand while Sarvan tried to free herself from her grip. The attack was reported again, but the KS Prosecutor’s Office decided not to conduct investigations into these two reports. Sarvan was not informed about this.
The Sarajevo prosecutor Aida Turić explained to Peratović that Ramić did not intend to defraud him because she notarized the statement promising to return the money, and without intent, there is no offense.
“How is this not a criminal offense? She took the money. Give me back my money and call it what you want,” said Peratović.
He initiated civil proceedings against Ramić before the Court in Visoko claiming his money back.
Lured by desire
Despite the criminal charges, Ajša Ramić continued with her modus operandi.
Tuzla programmer Sanel Hodžić met her on social networks in April 2021. Having read promotional texts that presented her as a leader of the Roma community in Visoko and a successful entrepreneur at a time when the coronavirus was shutting down many companies, he wanted to meet her.
“I was so amazed, so I contacted Ajša wishing to congratulate her on everything I read about her successes”, Hodžić recalls.
He told her that he too wanted to become his own boss, to which Ramić replied with a message: “I have great connections in the IT industry. I know people and I know of job opportunities. Not in the USA, but in Switzerland.”
In a long and intensive text-based communication, she convinced him that she would find him a Swiss investor for initial capital, workers, and deals abroad. The combination should have been perfect: the company and developers would be in Sarajevo, and work and money would come from Switzerland.
“If you decide to start a company and want to save yourself time and paperwork hassle, the Forrtuna team can do it for you at the best price,” Ramić wrote to him.
They soon formalized the deal and signed a cooperation agreement. They met only once in Tuzla, where Hodžić gave her a power of attorney and cash.
“Two thousand BAM on that occasion (…). I gave her about a thousand more afterward.”
According to the agreement they signed, Ramić undertook to collect the documentation required for starting a business and find a foreign investor. She would take a percentage of his contracts with foreigners as an intermediation service fee. Her education, promotion, attitude, and communication skills left him no room for doubting success.
“The story she told me is that this has worked for many other people before me. This is how many people started cooperation abroad. (…) As the saying goes: who dares wins.”
But the months passed and Hodžić neither received the company documentation nor did he meet the Swiss investors.
“Excuses were many – deaths, traffic accidents, problems in the family…”
When Hodžić realized that she would not deliver on what he paid her for the conflicts began. Once intimate communication turned into mutual threats full of aggression and profanities.
Hodžić says that with a lot of arguing and pressure he managed to get back a small part of the money, but Ramić kept another two thousand BAM. In the end, with an outburst of profanities, she told him that all the papers he signed were worthless. Although very angry, he did not report it to the police because no one could testify that he had given her the money, and the contract they signed did not mention the money issue.
Unlawfully collected evidence
Nearly all reports and experiences the readers testified about preceded the event that CIN journalists discovered in the middle of 2022. That year, Merjem Mirsada Veladžić and Ajša Ramić got connected through social networks. Veladžić lives in America and she needed a lawyer from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to help her develop a new business idea. After their first meeting on Facebook, the business idea quickly became a reality. But what was a success for them meant debts and shame for tens of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Veladžić and Ramić took about 140 thousand US dollars from their clients in three months. They claimed they cooperate with the US Embassy in BiH and apply on behalf of the citizens for an accelerated visa process. At least 36 families have signed cooperation contracts with them, convinced that the Embassy stands behind them.
CIN discovered not only that these two women were not intermediaries and had no cooperation or communication with Embassy officials, but also that they presented to clients forged documents.
Veladžić arrived in BiH at the end of July. She told CIN that she was deceived and that only after she arrived in Sarajevo and met Ramić in person did she realize that she does not cooperate with the Embassy, as she claimed before they started the joint venture.
She reported her business partner to the FUP in Zenica for fraud. However, the FUP was not up to the task: the inspector collected evidence without having obtained a prior warrant from the prosecutor, which is why the acting prosecutor Lejla Handžić Selimović could not use it in the proceedings.
In addition, Veladžić did not even receive a confirmation slip from the police for the submitted evidence, although she says that she insisted on it: “They told me the minutes and all other things, voucher, etc. is presented only to the person against whom the charges are pressed, and the prosecutor. I’m the one reporting it, I should get it.”
The FUP Professional Standards Unit launched an investigation against the inspector who took the statement. The Head of the Unit, Mustafa Hujdurović, says that he has never heard of an inspector making such a mistake.
“It has not happened so far. (…) It never happened to anyone before, if he made such a mistake (…). It is the alpha and omega: the inspector shall work by the law, these are the basics.”
Ajša Ramić gave an interview to CIN journalists before the release of the story The American Dream Turning Into A Nightmare, but having consulted her lawyer, she changed her mind about publishing it. Later, she repeatedly promised to talk about the charges her clients pressed against her but she did not show up for the second interview.
A report filed by Merjem Mirsada Veladžić is currently pending at the Zenica-Doboj Canton Prosecutor’s Office, and Ramić’s former friend Selma Sarvan thinks that all this could have been avoided:
“If they (inspectors, author’s note) had believed a little more in what I said, none of this would have happened. I tried to make it crystal clear to the people who she is and how far she is willing to go.”