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Three Persons Convicted And Five Acquitted In The Courier Case

A retired lawyer, a former court clerk, and a real estate broker were sentenced in Sarajevo to a total of seven years and three months in prison for forging documents. The other five defendants were acquitted.

The Sarajevo Cantonal Court sentenced in the first instance Ismet Hamzić, a retired lawyer from Sarajevo to three years and ten months in prison, Zaim Spahović, a former courier of the Sarajevo Municipal Court, to one year in prison, and Pero Vuković, a real estate agent to two years and five months in prison for document forgery.

The other defendants in the Courier case, namely Milena Rajić, a former judge of the Sarajevo Municipal Court, Tanja Jović, a suspended head of the Case Management Office, Muamer Pita, a suspended courier, Mirsada Alić, a former typist and Samina Skopljak, a lawyer, were all acquitted.

In the rationale of the judgment, judge Sanela Rondić as the Panel president explained that Hamzić, Spahović, and Vuković were proven to have committed the criminal offense of falsifying documents over an extended period, but their family circumstances, the age and lack of criminal history were taken as mitigating factors, while the aggravating factors were the length and the number of unlawful actions taken.

Judge Rondić explained that some parts of the indictment were not sufficiently corroborated by evidence, and some testimonies and findings of court experts were not accepted by the Court, which is why the five defendants were acquitted.

Six years since the indictment was filed

The Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office filed two indictments in the Courier case in 2017 and 2018, which were subsequently merged. Among the defendants were lawyer Esad Hrvačić, his intern Elmin Džino, and Sarajevo Municipal Court CMS administrator Branka Husanović, all of whom have been in the meantime convicted.

The three of them entered a plea agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office at the beginning of the process, admitting the charges of organized crime, association to commit a criminal offense, falsification of documents, and abuse of position. Hrvačić was sentenced to one year in prison and a 10,000 BAM fine, and also proceeds of 47,520 BAM were confiscated from him.  He was banned from practicing law for 18 months, while Husanović and Džino received suspended prison sentences and a ban on performing their respective functions for one year.

Money Over Dignity Of The Profession
In five years, at least nine lawyers in Bosnia and Herzegovina were convicted of abuse of position, abuse of trust of clients, and document forging. Six were banned from practicing law.

According to the indictment allegations and the pronounced judgments, from June 2010 to June 2016, they engaged in initiating civil proceedings to unlawfully change the ownership of the real estate. Namely, they were initiating proceedings for the acquisition of a real estate by usucaption, while the original owners did not even know they were being sued. Some of [respondents] died, but dead were also some of the petitioners on whose behalf the lawsuits were filed.

The lawsuits most frequently pointed to the non-existent or wrong addresses of the respondents. With the help of court couriers, the lawsuits were sent to lawyers’ offices, where delivery notes were signed on behalf of the respondents. In this way, the lawsuits appeared to have been properly served.  However, since the respondents neither replied nor appeared in court, default judgments were rendered based on which individuals acquired ownership over real estate.

Prosecutor Željka Radovanović Sokić said in her closing statement that these lawsuits were most often assigned to judge Milena Rajić with the help of court officials abusing the CMS, and sometimes the lawsuits would be withdrawn if the CMS would assign the case to another judge.  In such cases, lawsuits would be subsequently filed again until they finally reached the judge who is most likely to “solve the problem most easily”.

However, during sentencing, judge Sanela Rondić explained that judge Rajić was exonerated because her guilt had not been proven. She recalled that the judge was accused of making unlawful decisions based on fictitious addresses, falsified delivery notes, and forged statements, but according to the Panel, [the indictment] “should have specified that “she knew that these were fictitious addresses of the respondents, i.e. falsified delivery notes, and secondly, knowing that this was the case, that she rendered judgments in cases related to the acquisition by usucaption, more precisely, she rendered judgments in cases in which the petitioners were represented by Hamzić Ismet”

Judge Milena Rajić Removed from Office
High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC BiH) removed from office a judge of the Municipal Court in Sarajevo for negligence in the performance of duties.

The Prosecutor’s Office discovered the Courier case thanks to certain judges from the Civil Division of the Municipal Court who became suspicious about the manner in which court letters were served on the respondents. These were the cases in which the lawsuits were successfully served by court couriers, but when the lawsuits were sent to the same address via mail, they would return as undeliverable. The Sarajevo Municipal Court informed thereon the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office, which took over the case. The prosecutor’s office ordered the surveillance and recording of suspects, reviewed the case, conducted a field control, and took statements from the witnesses.

Prosecutor Radovanović Sokić said in her closing statement that this is a criminal offense with a high degree of danger to society because it not only causes material consequences for real property owners but also “compromises the legitimate work of the judiciary, and undermines the public confidence in judicial authorities.”

The defense lawyers challenged the legality of the collected evidence and insisted that it was not an organized group, as stated in the indictment.

Ismet Hamzić, who has since retired and does not work as a lawyer, said in the closing statement: “This case has lost me everything. I lost my health, I lost my job, I lost my family, I lost my property.”

This judgment can be appealed.

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