Bosnia and Herzegovina: Former Pharmaceutical Moguls Indicted for Financial Crimes

Published: 18 December 2015

By Igor Spaic

Prosecutors in Sarajevo filed an indictment Wednesday against the former heads of Bosnalijek, the largest pharmaceuticals company in the country, for forming a criminal group that allegedly committed money laundering, tax evasion, and forgery between 2002 and 2012.

It is not the first time the officials have come under fire. In 2012, the government, which also owns a 19.26 percent stake in the company, voted to remove the then-acting director, Edin Arslanagic, from his post due to losses Bosnalijek recorded under his management.

Now, he and his son, Amar Arslanagic, also a former director of the company, are among those named in the 170-page indictment alongside Sefik Handzic, Hasan Sepo, Selvic Aida, Arslanagic Izet, and Sepo Jasmin. All suspects either held positions in Bosnalijek, or in Brstanica and Carpe Diem, two companies that did business with Bosnalijek. 

Prosecutors also seek to seize assets worth almost 24 million Bosnian Marks (more than US$ 13 million) which they say the group has gained by engaging in illegal business practices.

Most members of the group were arrested in the end of May 2015, when police raided nine locations in Sarajevo as part of the police operation codenamed "Buyer". The operation was initiated following an extensive investigation into Bosnalijek's business practices during which investigators say they found many documented irregularities.

As state-owned Federal television (FTV) reported at the time, the group is accused of failing to pay Bosnalijek employees a stipend for meals, instead requiring them to eat at a restaurant where the company Brstanica, owned by Hasan Sepo, provided the meals. Finance police at the time found that Brstanica billed Bosnaijek for 346,428 more meals than was necessary, which gained Brstanica an illegal profit of more than US$ 1.9 million.

Prosecutors say 60 witnesses will testify in the case.

Local news portal Klix reports that the Arslanagics' lawyer, Senka Nozica, denied to comment on the indictment, saying she will only do so after the court decides whether the case will proceed or not. The deadline for that decision is 15 days after filing.