Bosnia and Herzegovina: Organized Crime Arrests at Country's Leading Pharma Firm

Published: 30 May 2015

By Igor Spaic

Bosnian authorities have arrested seven people suspected of involvement in organized crime offences while working for, or doing business with, the country's largest pharmaceutical company, Bosnalijek.

Investigators are still working to confirm the total cost of the criminal activities to official budgets, but prosecutors say it amounts to many millions of Bosnian marks over the course of a decade.

After an extensive investigation lasting many months, during which investigators say they documented irregularities in Bosnalijek's business dealings, authorities launched a police operation codenamed "Buyer".

The first five arrests took place on Wednesday, when state police raided nine locations in Sarajevo and reportedly detained Sefik Handzic, Amar Arslanagic, Aida Selvic, Izet Arslanagic and Jasmin Sepo.

Two more suspects, named in local press as Hasan Sepo and Telibecirevic Samir, were arrested the next day.

An arrest warrant for Edin Arslanagic, who is currently abroad, was also issued. According to Slobodna Bosna, Arslanagic contacted his lawyers and said he will arrive in Bosnia on Sunday.  

Police are still seeking Bojan Kebo, for whom they also have an arrest warrant.

The suspects are accused of organizing a criminal group that commited tax fraud, abuse of power, forgery of official documents, and signed contracts that damage Bosnalijek between 2002 and 2012.

Edin Arslanagic and his son Amar are both former directors of Bosnalijek, and Šefik Handžićis the former director of Bosnalijek's finance department. The other suspects hold positions at Bosnalijek, as well as the Sarajevo-based companies Brstanica and Carpe Diem.

Federal TV reported on one of the alleged offences, involving fraudulent practices in the cooperation between Bosnalijek and Brstanica. According to the report, employees of Bosnalijek were not paid a stipend for meals, but instead went to eat at a restaurant where Brstanica, owned by Hasan Sepo, provided them with meals.

Finance police reportedly found that Brstanica billed Bosnalijek for 346,428 more meals than was necessary, thereby creaming off an illegal profit of more than US$ 1.9 million.

All suspects were ordered to pre-trial detention lasting 30 days.