Serbia: 29 Police Officers Arrested in Bribery Case at Hungary Border
Serbian authorities have arrested 29 police officers, nine customs officials and one other person whom they accuse of letting people illegally cross the border into neighboring Hungary, a member of the European Union (EU), in exchange for bribes.
The unnamed suspects were arrested Sunday as part of a police operation by Serbian and Hungarian authorities. They were all reportedly employed in jobs linked to securing the Backi Breg border crossing between the two countries.
Apart from letting people cross the border illegally, the police officers were also accused of smuggling taxable goods into the EU duty-free.
They have been charged with accepting and giving bribes and abuse of office over the course of the last 15 months. The officers had allegedly abused the visa-free travel status Serbia enjoys with the EU.
According to report by the Vecernje Novosti news website, customs officials and police officers were called to a meeting with the head of border police, Milenko Bozovic, at a police station.
When they arrived, authorities blocked the entrance and Bozovic reportedly read out 15 names of police officers who were arrested on the spot. They were then brought for questioning at the Belgrade office of the prosecutor for organized crime.
Hungary is among the countries reportedly under pressure as a transit point by which migrants, often travelling from North Africa and the Middle East, pass illegally to other EU member states.
On Thursday the head of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban's office, Janos Lazar, said that 54,000 migrants had passed into Hungary by June this year – a number larger than the total for the whole of 2014, 43,000.
Lazar also said that Hungary is not economically prepared for the 130,000 migrants that the government guesses will come over the course of the next year - mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh and Libya.
In a June 12 interview with Radio Kossuth on the show 180 Minutes, Orban announced a meeting between government officials from Hungary and Serbia with the goal of tackling the topic, to take place on July 1.
"We do not think it is right that Serbia is letting migants pass over to Hungary. They should be stopped on Serbian territory. The problem should not be resolved on the territory of Hungary and the EU, but outside EU borders," said Orban.
Orban also claimed that, in order to force Serbia to tackle the issue within its own borders, the Hungarian government is considering full physical border closure.