Integral statement of Daliborka Uljarević, CCE Executive Director, at the press conference where she presented the results of measures and activities that the Prosecution conducted in last 20 months against the CCE, as well as the further activities of the CCE concerning this issue
The process that took place before the Prosecutor following the charges submitted by the anonymous person(s) against the CCE and me, as the person in charge for its representation, had all the elements of a political process. Not as much as in Pekić’s years devoured by locusts, but more than enough to cause serious concern at the time when Montenegro is engaged in the negotiations with EU, and against an organisation well
known for its critical attitude towards decision-makers and a constructive approach to the affirmation of European standards.
• A complaint was brought before the Prosecutor’s office by anonymous person(s) on 12 December 2012. Some ten days later – on 24 December 2012, based on that, Basic State Prosecutor opened the case No. 1786/12.
• The prosecutor working on this case was Miloš Šoškić, upon whose oral instructions the police took extensive financial documentation from CCE on four occasions – 21 and 23 January, and 6 and 13 February 2013. The only evidence that these documents were taken are the records compiled by the CCE and signed by present representatives of the CCE and inspectors for financial crime from Police Directorate. Altogether, 2633 pages of basic documentation were procured from the CCE. The requests for documentation ended only after the CCE representatives informed the police, during their last visit of 13 February 2013, that they will only be allowed access to the CCE premises in the future with a written instruction from the prosecutor. As Šoškić never issued a written instruction, the police never returned. The fact that prosecutor Šoškić was so eager to avoid leaving a paper trail was of great interest to the numerous representatives of international organisations and diplomatic representations whom we informed about the case.
• According to the information available to the CCE, the case should have been closed in spring 2013 as no flaw was found within the obtain documents. However, prosecutor Šoškić kept the case open and shortly before his promotion into the higher prosecutor (13 September 2013) he asked for an expert opinion from a court expert on finance and economy Aleksandra Anđelić. Anđelić submitted her expert opinion to the Prosecution on 11 December 2013.
• The CCE was communicated the expert opinion on 30 December 2013. On the same day, in the presence of the CCE’s lawyer Vladimir Čejović, the anonymous complaint which had motivated the prosecutor’s actions for more than a year was read out for the first time. Neither CCE nor its lawyer ever received a copy of this complaint. The complaint contained no evidence and was submitted anonymously, but despite all that the Prosecutor raised charges against the CCE and charged me, as the person in charge for its representation, with the following crimes:
o Negligent performance of business activities, Art. 272 of the Criminal Code, para 1 – punishable by a fine or imprisonment up to 3 years
o Embezzlement, Art. 243 of the Criminal Code, para 2 – punishable by an imprisonment sentence of 1 to 6 years
o Fraud, Art. 244 of the Criminal Code, para 3 – punishable by an imprisonment sentence of 1 to 8 years
o Tax and contribution evasion, Art. 264, of the Criminal Code, para 1 – punishable by an imprisonment sentence of 3 years and a fine.
In other words, over the past 20 months, the Prosecution acted upon an extremely dubious document and suspected me of very grave offences punishable by long-term imprisonment and high fines.
• It should be stressed that the Prosecutor wavered substantially in deciding on its charges. As a suspect, I had been summoned to two hearings for one of these crimes, while the documents sent to the CCE by the Prosecutor mentioned the others. The above is thus a cumulative account of everything for which the prosecutor tried to frame us. Finally, on 24 July 2014 we received an “information” from the Prosecutor rejecting the anonymous complaint and clearing me from all of the above charges, as well as well as other possible charges that could be raised by the Prosecution as part of their official acting, since no evidence was found for even a reasonable doubt that I had committed any of them.
Estimate of expenses:
• According to our information, the process described here that had lasted for 20 months had involved directly at least 5 prosecutors (Miloš Šoškić, Ljiljana Klikovac, Enes Baković, Vukas Radonjić and Veselin Vučković), 1 court expert, 3 police officers, 1 lawyer, and indirectly one newspaper (“Pobjeda”) and two TV channels (“Pink M” and 777). We estimate that the overall cost of this attempt to discredit the CCE and me personally was around EUR 100 000. The farthest reach of this operation was a completely untenable estimate of the expert that the CCE had evaded EUR 8 025.91 in payment of taxes, contributions or other prescribed dues. In the same period, the CCE paid EUR 164.489.00 to the state of Montenegro on the basis of the same taxes and contributions, which clearly demonstrates that we neither evaded paying taxes nor had a motive for doing so. Finally, the inspection conducted by the Tax Administration found that there has been not a single irregularity in this period, and that the CCE owes exactly EUR 0.00 in taxes to the state of Montenegro!
With that, the case has been closed, but only partly.</span> For us, the second part begins now, and we intend to deal with it in equally dedicated manner as we did over the last 20 months to provde that our work is entirely in accordance with the law. We have experienced first hand the danger of the misuse of public office, and we owe it to others to take this process to the end. This includes, first and foremost, shedding light on the role played by the first acting prosecutor Šoškić and court expert Anđelić.
• Namely, we first heard of the expert’s findings from the media reports published in the state-owned paper “Pobjeda” and TV Pink M (which was recently revealed in the media to be under control of the Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, an allegation he had never denied). On 23 December 2013 we informed the Supreme State Prosecutor about this, asking for clarification and demanding that the Prosecution informs us directly, not via the media, about all details of the case they were trying to build against us. Only after that were we summoned to the first hearing on 30 December 2013, which was attended by two prosecutors: Ljiljana Klikovac and Enes Baković. The second hearing was held on 24 January 2014 in presence of three prosecutors: Ljiljana Klikovac, Enes Baković and Vukas Radonjić. The number of prosecutors per hearing is probably a matter of historical record, being far from the usual practice, and indicating how important the Prosecution considered this case to be. The importance accorded to this case still needs to be explained, since it would hardly be merited by the types of crimes for which Prosecution tried to assign to us.
• On 31 December, after being informed of the expert’s findings, we contacted both the Supreme State Prosecutor Veselin Vučković and the Basic State Prosecutor Ljiljana Klikovac with requests to investigate the fact that the Prosecution had passed the media information about this case. Specifically, we notified them that we suspected that the prosecutor who had been on the cases since it was opened (late December 2012 to mid-September 2013) Miloš Šoškić had acted as the (in)direct source from Prosecution for “Pobjeda”. We substantiated our allegations with indications that should have been sufficient to initiate a procedure within the Prosecution, and on several later occasions we also submitted further evidence. Also, we asked the Prosecutor to investigate the relationship between Šoškić and Anđelić, including individual hearings on the manner in which Anđelić had been selected as an expert, and establish whether or not they have been privately acquainted prior to this case and whether her appointment contained elements of the conflict of interests. Moreover, we asked the Prosecution to ascertain who did Anđelić communicate with while she was compiling the report, who was the report eventually submitted to, whether prosecutor Šoškić had received a copy of this report, and whether she passed on any other information to him after his formal engagement on this case had ended.
• Furthermore, in accordance with the Law on State Prosecution we requested the Supreme State Prosecutor to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Šoškić. Our efforts to elucidate every detail of Šoškić’s role in this case remain an expression of our commitment to contribute to the strengthening of the Prosecution. Our suspicion of coordinated action between prosecutor Šoškić and persons who had been behind months long brutal media campaign against the CCE and me personally had been substantiated with due evidence.
• Two and a half months later, on 4 April 2014, we received a letter from the Basic State Prosecutor (the only written response to our interventions of 23/12/2013, 31/12/2013, 16/01/2014 and 13/02/2014) signed by Ljiljana Klikovac. The letter constitutes an important document in the analysis of how the Prosecution fails to conceal the “rotten apples” within its ranks. Namely:
1. The latter was filed under the case no. 1786/12, i.e. it became part of the case against the CCE, that had been initiated by an anonymous complaint, which we already at that point suspected to be politically motivated case;
2. The Prosecution did not initiate a separate investigation upon the CCE’s complaint against Šoškić and Anđelić nor did it initiate the proceedings envisaged by the Law on State Prosecution and Regulations of the internal procedures of State Prosecution, which means that Šoškić and Anđelić were not treated in the same manner in front of the law as the CCE’s employees when an anonymous complaint was filed against us!
3. The letter states that the case against the CCE was initiated because of the “crime of abuse of position in business conduct, Art. 272 para 1 of the Criminal Code”, which is indeed the crime Prosecutor Šoškić had started out with. However, the later summon to the hearing of the responsible person from the CCE had been issued on the basis of an entirely different crime, although as part of the same case. This means that even in April 2014, after 17 months of investigation actions conducted by the Prosecution, we still did not know which criminal acts are in the attempt to construct the case against us. The Prosecution itself evidently found it hard to define the essence of our crime and consequently to define the criminal act it ought to proceed;
4. Finally, and worst of all, the Prosecution deals with speculations and assumptions, accusing directly, without a single shred of evidence, the allegedly anonymous citizens and police officers who collected the information and confiscated financial documentation, but refusing to investigate the case objectively. To clarify, the expert opinion was available only to three parties – the expert, the Prosecution and the CCE – and since we, in the CCE, first learned about the result of the findings from the reports in “Pobjeda”, it was not hard to trace down the source of the leak.
The CCE could have taken the case to the media. We chose a way that was more difficult for us and we invested maximum effort to respect the institutions and to first communicate all of our concerns through the official channels, as can be seen in the ample accompanying documentation. This does not mean we refused to answer the journalists’ questions – “Pobjeda” always received all the answers it requested from the CCE, and there is a written record of this. There is also a written record of its failure to publish our responses, and the Journalists’ self-regulating body and NGO Human Rights Action had both concluded that the paper had breached the journalists’ code of conduct in its reporting about this case. The same refers to Pink M – whose crew visited the CCE’s premises, recorded an interview with me, but failed to broadcast any of it, as the editors presumably did not like my answers. This never prevented them, however, from making me into headline news for weeks through one-side reporting in their Minute, two programme. In this case, too, the Journalists’ self-regulating body and NGO Human Rights Action had found that the journalists’ code of conduct had been breached. Here is a chance for both “Pobjeda” and “Pink M” to correct some of the damage they inflicted on us and our associates, and offer at least a third of the space and time they dedicated to the attempt to discredit us to finally publish the facts.
CCE intends to request from the relevant authorities to erase expert Aleksandra Anđelić from the register of court experts due to her lack of professionalism, superficial and partial approach to work and the Report she compiled based on incomplete documentation. We will also persist in elucidating the role of the prosecutor Miloš Šoškić, both in criminal proceedings and via complaints filed on the basis of the Law on State Prosecution and the Prosecutors’ Code of Conduct. This will also be a test of the readiness of the Prosecution to fulfil all the measures laid out in the Action Plan for Chapter 23, which requires them to conduct proceedings to assess responsibility of the prosecutors according to the law. In the meantime, we have submitted a complaint to the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms (Ombudsman) Šućko Baković against the Basic State Prosecution for its failure to act upon our complaint against Šoškić i Anđelić. The Ombudsman informed us that he had already opened the case and asked the Basic State Prosecution to respond to it, which is commendable.
We believe that it is not the task of the Prosecution to abuse its powers and wage a war through the media, acting as a mercenary for those who happened to dislike CCE’s work in the past or present or somebody else in future. Since the beginning we were sure that we can prove the legality of our work and the meaninglessness of mobilizing such prosecutorial capacities in our case. However, this has become a problem for the state of Montenegro as a whole, because the growing number of ever more brutal examples of pressure on the non-governmental sector, as well as the continuous failure to resolve the cases of attacks on the media are clearly indicating the lack of the rule of law in the country and of even a fundamental safety for all those who dare to express a critical opinion about the reality they live in.
This case was intended to undermine the CCE and myself personally because of our continuous criticism towards the ruling structures, as well as towards those circles in power who have no qualms about abusing the institutions for their own purposes. We are aware that such an approach, in a society in which we are still struggling to ensure the basic principles of democratic rule, will be perceived as interference, but it is unacceptable to allow the public institutions to be misused for taking revenge on us or on anyone else for similar reasons.
I would like to use this opportunity to publicly thank for their professionalism and correctness in communication the members of the Police Directorate who worked on this case, inspectors of the Tax Administration who conducted the detailed audit of CCE’s work as well as those media that did not take part in the outrageous campaign which was meant to discredit the CCE and me personally.
I would like to thank colleagues from the NGO sector, associates, friends, donors and many stakeholders from the international community who supported us in this period, most of all the EU Delegation to Montenegro and the US Embassy.
Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues from the CCE for their continuous dedication to the work even when things had been far from easy and when they found themselves targets of the biased measures of the relevant public institutions. It made all of us in the CCE stronger, and ensured that we do everything in our powers to prevent this from happening to somebody else, and to make every effort to ensure that the Prosecution, which is in the position to wield enormous power, does not misuse that power to crack down on freely thinking citizens, but to work in public interest, to have the strength to resist those powerful figures who treat the institutions in such a humiliating manner, and to build up the system of rule of law.
Incidentally, this is our unplanned contribution in that respect.