Courts in Serbia are still sitting on a number of extradition demands, some dating back years, potentially causing concern to the EU.
Serbia’s Justice Ministry told BIRN Belgrade is seeking extradition of 120 person from other countries, while other states seek the extradition of 80 persons from Serbia.
One such case concerns the former Romanian MP and businessman Sebastian Ghita, who is wanted in Romania on several corruption charges.
The Belgrade Higher Court told BIRN that the procedure in Ghita’s case is still in progress, adding that a hearing is scheduled for May 19.
“When all the necessary information is collected, the criminal trial chamber [of the court]will decide on the fulfillment of conditions [for extradition],” the court said.
Ghita, 38, was detained in Belgrade on April 13, one night after identifying himself to police with fake Slovenian documents.
The former MP had been on the run for four months after vanishing last December from Bucharest, Romania, while under court supervision.
The former Romanian Social Democrat Party MP and financier faces five corruption investigations as well as two international and domestic arrest warrants after Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, DNA, launched probes into allegations that he had sought bribes in return for state contracts and had illegally funded former Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s 2014 presidential campaign.
A more extreme example of delays concerns Bulgarian Tycoon Tsvetan Vasilev whose extradition from Serbia has been sought by Bulgaria since 2014.
Vasilev owns a company in Serbia, Serbian Glass Factory, which is facing bankruptcy procedures.
The Belgrade Court told BIRN that no decision had yet been made on the conditions for the extradition of Vasilev to Bulgaria.
“Two earlier decisions of this court were abolished by the Appeal Court in Belgrade and returned for re-trial,” it added.
Vasilev has been living in Belgrade since 2014, days after his Corporate Commercial Bank collapsed in by far the biggest banking collapse in the history of Bulgaria. The lost assets are valued at over 4 billion leva [aroun 2 billion euros].
Bulgaria seeks his extradition on the grounds of running a ponzi scheme and of illegally acquiring 206 million leva [103 million euros] in assets from the now failed bank.
Milan Antonijevic, from Serbia’s Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, YUCOM, told BIRN that the EU will likely take a clear stance about each case and will not tolerate endless delays.
“In the Vasilev case, we are talking about an unduly long process and Serbia could have problems with its EU integration or even in bilateral relations because of it,” Antonijevic said, adding that delays in such cases could be seen as some kind of political protection.
Serbian media reported in 2016 that, despite his looming financial woes, Vasilev had been a donor to the fund of President Tomislav Nikolic’s wife, Dragica.
President Nikolic himself confirmed that Vasilev had donated to the fund – before Bulgaria filed the extradition warrant.
Meanwhile, in another case, Montenegro has reportedly issued an international arrest warrant for the former president of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, who is in Belgrade undergoing medical treatment.
Marovic has not obeyed a call from Montenegro to return home and serve his jail sentence of three years and nine months for corruption.
The Serbian Justice Ministry told BIRN that it had not received any request to extradite Marovic, however.
A former speaker of the Montenegrin parliament and the last president of the rump Yugoslav state, Marovic pleaded guilty to corruption charges in August 2016.
He is obliged also to return 1.2 million euros after he admitted abusing his political position to benefit a criminal group involved in property in his hometown of Budva.
Marovic has been in Serbia for several months now. His lawyers say he was admitted to a mental health institution on April 7.
Sasa Djordjevic, from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, told BIRN that extradition depends on the level of trust between states.
“Because Serbia is not part of the EU, any request for extradition is a political issue and it depends on Serbia’s relations with a country that requires a certain person,” Djordjevic explained.
He added that suspicions would grow if the country requesting extradition from Serbia started criminal proceedings or its court imposed a sanction.
“But you should always keep in mind the context in which this process took place. It all depends from case to case,” Djordjevic concluded.