The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) ordered home confinement for Jelena Majstorović, head of the ITA BiH Anti-smuggling group, and inspectors Radenko Popović and Stevo Savić along with the protective measure that prohibits them to communicate and meet the suspects and witnesses.
Prosecutor Elvira Stanojlović requested that Majstorović and Popović remain in custody, but the Court refused this request.
Six ITA BiH inspectors were arrested a month ago on accusations of abusing their position and authority during 2017 and 2018 and blackmailing the shop owners they found in transgressions by asking for bribes not to seize their goods. Business owners across Bosnia and Herzegovina have been paying inspectors several hundred to several thousand marks to get smaller penalties or for inspectors to turn the blind eye to the way they do their business.
Majstorović, Popović, and Savić were in custody for a month, while Vladimir Puzić, Vladimir Đurđević, and Elvis Džaferagić were released immediately after the hearing at the Prosecutor’s Office but were banned from communicating with other suspects and witnesses. However, ITA BiH did not suspend them, hence, Puzić, Đurđević, and Džaferagić continued to work together and could come into contact with witnesses daily.
Majstorović, Popović, and Savić were suspended because they are still in custody.
House arrest and protective measures will stay in force until the Court decides otherwise.
Jelena Majstorović has been working at ITA BiH since February 2013. Ten years earlier, she was fired from NLB Bank in Prnjavor. The bank sued Majstorović for the crime, and in 2005 she was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence. She was 26 at the time. At her request, the conviction was deleted from the court records in 2016, by which time she had been working under a contract for the ITA BiH for three years.
An employee of an institution in BiH may not be convicted of a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for three years or more, while a civil servant may not be convicted at all.
Shortly after the verdict was deleted, in April 2018, Majstorović was hired as a civil servant in the Tax Department, and ten days later, Director Miro Džakula rendered an internal decision returning her to the Anti-smuggling and Misdemeanor Group where she worked while she was hired on a service contract. At the end of 2018, Džakula temporarily appointed her head of the Group. She was appointed to this position on a permanent contract in 2020.
Last year, CIN published a story revealing the modus operandi of the Chief and inspectors of the ITA BiH.
Shop owners explained to journalists that the inspectors, upon entering their shops, demanded that they turn off the video surveillance, and searched private premises without presenting a court warrant, as well as their bags and personal belongings, and ultimately confiscated the goods they found, thus violating the procedures.
SIPA inspectors filed the first report on these abuses in 2019, claiming to have established that Majstorović and her inspectors over two years used their position at least ten times to extort money from shopkeepers, and in at least four cases they illegally confiscated jewelry worth more than BAM 200,000.