28 Jul Serbian authorities accuse CSOs who are critical of the government’s actions of financing terrorism

Belgrade, July 28, 2020

Press release

 

Serbian authorities accuse CSOs who are critical of the government’s actions of financing terrorism

 

Civic initiatives demand that the Serbian government immediately cease the abuse of the mechanism for the prevention of money laundering and financing terrorism in order to intimidate organizations, media and individuals who act as controllers of the government. The Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering sent an official note to the banks, asking them to provide the Administration with all documentation related to all money transactions for 57 organizations, media and individuals. The list consists of organizations dealing with human rights, war crimes and monitoring of government’s work, as well as investigative media.

In the letter to the banks, the Administration refers to the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism, and in the explanation submitted to the Newsmax Adria news program by the Acting Director of the Administration for Prevention of Money Laundering, Željko Radovanović, he states that “these are regular activities aimed at assessing the risk of terrorism financing, rather than conducting any investigation or classifying organizations as criminal groups. ” Pursuant to Article 73 of the said Law, the Administration may request the bank to submit data if it “assesses that in connection with certain transactions or persons there are grounds for suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing”. The law does not give state authorities the discretion to inspect those for whom there is no suspicion.

As a reminder, the Law and all relevant procedures were adopted within the framework of fulfilling the obligations of the Republic of Serbia towards the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL Committee in order to contribute to the global fight against the financing of terrorism. The confrontation with organizations and critical media in this way is an abuse of the legal mechanism and state resources.

Civic Initiatives, in cooperation with the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, worked on educating organizations on the risks of abuse and contributed to reporting of the Republic of Serbia on the fulfillment of recommendations related to non-profit organizations. Civic initiatives have warned international institutions on several occasions, primarily the Council of Europe Committee MONEYVAL, that the measures required of the Republic of Serbia could be abused by the authorities in Serbia. The last time was during last year’s official visit of the experts of this body to Serbia. After that visit, the implementation of the recommendations regarding the oversight of non-profit organizations was assessed as largely fulfilled by the Republic of Serbia.

We call on the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering to suspend the investigation against the organizations, to publish the documents and to explain the process of creating the list sent to the banks. We call on the relevant institutions to carry out an internal inspection of the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, determine the role and responsibility of the members of the Coordination Body for the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and publish the results of the inspection.

Civic initiatives suspend all cooperation with relevant institutions implementing this Law until its abuse ceases, and will notify the FATF, the Council of Europe Committee MONEYVAL and other international institutions and organizations about the abuse of the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing system.