Miskovic Arrest Adds to Serbian Deputy PM’s Lustre

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, December 14, 2012
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Aleksandar Vucic can expect a ratings boost from the detention of Delta’s powerful boss – but the real test will be the follow-up in the courts.The arrest of tycoon Miroslav Miskovic is a major coup for Serbia’s governing Progressive Party and its combative leader, Aleksander Vucic, commentators agree.

But while Vucic can claim political credit for the action, the conduct of his trial – if it occurs – will post a major test for the country’s courts.

From leading the list of Serbia’s richest and most powerful people, Miskovic has now ended up in newspapers’ crime sections.

Police detained the owner of Serbia’s biggest private company, Delta Holding, and nine others, on December 12th.

They are suspected of having illegally obtained more that €30 million, Miljko Radisavljevic, Serbia’s prosecutor for organised crime, said.

Suspects include the tycoon’s son, Marko, owner of Mera Investment Fund, and Marko Djuraskovic, owner of the road building company Nibens Group.

Delta responded that it was “absolutely sure of the legality” of its work, adding that the company would cooperate fully with the authorities.The fourth biggest company in Serbia, after the state-run electric power firm, the oil company, NIS, and Serbian Telekom, Delta is the country’s biggest private concern.

Employing about 5,000 people, it operates through 76 different subsidiaries, dealing with farming, food production, retail, export-import, representation of foreign companies, consumer goods, car sales, real estate, financial services and insurance.

Aleksandar Vucic, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of corruption and leader of the Serbian Progressive Party, said that the suspects were arrested in relation to 24 privatisation cases that the EU has flagged up as problematic.

He explained that while Miskovic had been arrested in connection with his alleged involvement with Nibens Group, police were probing his role in several other problematic privatisations.

“Two things have been proven in Serbia – that nobody is protected and untouchable and that the state is stronger than any individual,” Vucic said December 12th.

Media reports said that when he was detained, Miskovic told the police that Vucic would not live to take part in a show on the public broadcaster, RTS, scheduled for that evening.

They said they had informed Vucic of the verbal threat and had increased security measures.

Vucic clearly took the threat seriously, writing on Facebook and Twitter: “No one has ever beaten Serbia and neither will Miroslav Miskovic.”

But Delta’s lawyers, the firm Jankovic, Popovic and Miric, said their client had not resisted arrest and denied having made any threats.

Miskovic had “said that “Aleksandar [Vucic] cannot take part in the RTS show unless he arrests me first,’” the firm said.

Jovo Bakic, a political analyst, said Vucic had every right to crow over the tycoon’s arrest.

Both he personally and his Progressive Party stood to benefit, as voters would appreciate their readiness to take on corruption.

“Supporters of their main opponents in the Democratic Party will be asking why the Democrats lacked the political will to do what the Progressives have done now,” he said.

“And from now on Vucic can also count on the sympathy of the intellectuals, which he has never had before in his political career,” Bakic added.

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