Bosnian Authorities Bust Group Selling Fake Diplomas

Published: 24 February 2023

Diplomas StonesExpress degrees, fake diplomas still make a profitable business in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Photo: Hippopx, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina detained 11 people suspected of “organized crime, illegal trade, and money laundering” in connection with the sale of fraudulent university diplomas that were not based on genuine study.

After years of investigation, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) searched 18 locations across the country on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the Klaster (Cluster) operation.

SIPA said it seized “75 student files, registry books and other business documentation, 165,000 convertible marks (US$89,300) in cash, computers and other items that could be used as evidence.”

While SIPA did not provide more details about the operation, Bosnian daily newspaper Dnevni Avaz reported that the investigation uncovered more than 50 fake diplomas, believed to be bought for at least 30,000 euros ($31,768) each.

Three undercover detectives reportedly managed to obtain fraudulent degrees, exposing the criminal ring involved in production of “express” diplomas at some private universities in the cities of Banja Luka, Travnik, Mostar and Brčko.

The office of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Chief Prosecutor Milanko Kajganić said Thursday that “the Klaster operation has been considered as one of the most important cases against corruption” in the country.

Addressing the media in Sarajevo, he expressed his concern with possible practical outcomes of fast, fake diplomas.

The recent catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria demonstrated the tragic consequences of improper construction work, Kajganić warned.

He emphasized that something similar may happen in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the case of a major earthquake, especially given that the probe found that construction degrees were also sold.

Diplomas, even masters or PhDs, might have been granted in a matter of days for a certain amount of cash.

The Prosecutor’s Office, together with SIPA, has thoroughly worked in the past two years to prove the existence of an organized crime group selling “express” diplomas, according to Kajganić.

The result showed “only the tip of an iceberg,” he said.

On the one hand, Kajganić praised law enforcement, but on the other, he chastised the country’s inspection authorities, claiming ironically that the fact that “diplomas could be bought at gas stations” demonstrated that some in the chain were not doing their job.

“We must all be serious and let the inspection authorities evaluate how we got to this point,” he said.