Serbia: Stanko Subotic Acquitted in Smuggling Case

stanko-suboticBy Dragana Peco and Milica Stojanovic

The Belgrade Special Court Friday acquitted Stanko Subotic on charges that he smuggled cigarettes during 1995 and 1996.

This was Subotic’s second trial on the charges. Prosecutors had maintained that the smuggling cost the Serbian government an estimated 56 million German marks (US$ 38.7 million) in unpaid taxes during that period.

In October of 2011, Subotic was convicted and sentenced to six years, but the Court of Appeal overturned that verdict in March of 2013 and ordered a retrial.

Subotic was accused of smuggling on Nov. 30, 2007, and Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest. He was tried in absentia, as he was living in Switzerland which declined to extradite him to Serbia.

In July of last year, after the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power and his Interpol warrant expired, Subotic returned to Serbia.

Judge Dragan Milosevic said Subotic’s conviction was reversed due to new evidence provided by the defense, which cited information from Macedonia that the Yugoslav National Army controlled one of the companies in the smuggling chain, not Subotic.

The judge denied that any political pressure had been applied in this case. "It is (said) that each case in this Court is subject to political influence, but believe me, I have not seen it," said the judge.

After the verdict was read, Subotic said that he had expected exoneration and that the case against him was fabricated by the previous Democratic Party government.

The prosecution has 30 days to appeal the verdict.

Subotic had also been charged with cigarette smuggling in Italy in 2008, along with Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. Five years later, Subotic was acquitted in that case, while the charges against Djukanovic were dropped.

The Organized Common and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in recently published stories revealed connections between Subotic and Darko Saric. Saric is accused of smuggling more than five tons of cocaine and laundering US$ 22 million.