Bosnia’s Top Judicial Official Suspected of Taking Bribes

Bosnia’s top judicial official became embroiled in a corruption scandal on Thursday after a secretly-filmed video was released showing him allegedly taking bribes through a middleman.

zurnalscreenshot from zurnal videoThe eight minute video, filmed in November 2018, was published by the Bosnian investigative news portal Zurnal, and shows a an officer named Marko Pandza from the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) meeting in a cafe with businessman Nermin Alesevic and Milan Tegeltija, the head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC).

In the video Pandza appears to act as an intermediary between Tegeltija and Alesevic, as they discuss Alesevic’s case, which has been slowly handled by the Canton Sarajevo’s Prosecutor's Office.

Tegeltija, as the head of the HJPC, the body that appoints judges as well as prosecutors and disciplines them, asks Alesevic for the case number and the name of the prosecutor handling it but does not directly ask for any money or favors from the businessman.

Yet when the three exit the cafe the video shows an exchange between Pandza and Alesevic, in which Alesevic counts out the equivalent of US $1143.6 in Bosnian money and hands it to Pandza, who assures him he will give the money to Tegeltija.

“He will take care of it,” Pandza assures Alesevic.

The businessman told N1 that he recorded the video and gave it to foreign embassies and Zurnal in order to expose the corrupt state of Bosnia’s judiciary.

"I did it personally to prove the situation we are in. I worked for two years on proving that the very top is corrupt," he said.

Zurnal first published a story accusing Tegeltija of corruption which he publically dismissed as fabrication. At an extraordinary meeting of the HJPC on Thursday, all 13 members present expressed support for their president Tegeltija.

An hour after their support hit the news, Zurnal published the compromising video on its website.

Tegeltija again went into defense mode and claimed that the footage only proves his innocence.

"It can clearly be heard that I am saying 'I can't help you right now with anything', and that I am telling Mr Alesevic to give me the documents, the case file number and the name of the prosecutor, which is common practice in the HJCP for complaints by parties who object the length of processes," he told N1.

He also said he is not excluding the possibility that the police officer misused his friendship.

Jumping to his defense was Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik, who said he believed the allegations against Tegeltija were unfounded and that the affair is part of an anti-Serb plot.

However Bosnia’s Security Minister Dragan Mektic publically called Dodik and Tegeltija “brothers in crime” and said that this has nothing to do with nationality but with crime. He called for Tegeltija’s resignation.

N1 reported that the Prosecutor’s Office has opened an official investigation into the matter and formed a case.