US authorities on Monday named Fadil Novalić, the prime minister of one of Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s two semi-autonomous regions, for his alleged involvement in corruption, as well as “divisive and destabilizing activities in the Western Balkans”. .
As prime minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) – which is one of two regions in the country, locally called entities – Novalić misused pensioner data for the benefit of his own political party and contrary to the law of the land, according to the United States. Department of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury.
Novalić was designated in accordance with Executive Order 14033 of 2021, according to which he will not be able to enter the United States and his properties there – if he has any – will be blocked.
“In the week leading up to the 2018 election, Novalić used the data on pensioners he acquired through his official position to send letters listing his achievements and promising increased pensions in a country where the pension issue has strong political significance,” the statement read.
According to OFAC, this behavior violated the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina and was part of a broader pattern of using his political authority for personal or party gain, undermining democratic processes or institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. .
Bosnian media quoted a Tweeter of an Al Jazeera Balkans correspondent in Washington who claimed that the US sanctions were a response to another scandal involving Novalić – his alleged role in the purchase of 10 million convertible marks ($5.05 million) from inadequate ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic and embezzlement related to the local military industry.
The real reason for the designation, as the tweet said, has not been listed due to formalities – as the lawsuit in the so-called “Silver Raspberry Ventilators” is ongoing.
In addition to Novalić, OFAC named Slobodan Stanković, considered one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, with close ties to the controversial Bosnian Serb leader and Serbian member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. , Milorad Dodik, whom the US administration sanctioned earlier this year.
OFAC claims that Stanković, the owner of Integral Inzenjering AD Laktasi, a large engineering company in the other semi-autonomous region, Republika Srpska (RS), has been “linked to corruption in the construction”.
Due to Stanković’s connection to RS management and Dodik, Integral, according to OFAC, secured some of RS’s biggest contracts.
“Major construction projects are often given to Stanković without fair and open competition,” the statement read, noting that “the vast majority of Stanković’s wealth comes from public money.”
Stanković is also known as the former owner of the US-designated Alternativna Televizija (ATV) television channel, a media outlet believed to be under the personal control of “Milorad Dodik, a corrupt US-designated member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina”. ”
“ATV’s acquisition by Stanković led the outlet to take a clear bias in favor of Dodik. The purchase and transformation of ATV demonstrates the reciprocal nature of Dodik’s corrupt dealings, as Stanković’s wealth gives Dodik a wealthy and powerful ally who benefits him politically,” OFAC said in the statement.
“Political parties and leaders should not be able to use public resources for their own benefit, and people should not get rich by helping them,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. commented about the designation on his twitter.
Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson also commented on the sanctions, noting that they highlight “how politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina undermine democratic institutions and processes for their own political gain. and to reward their patronage networks”.
The latest US sanctions against officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina came just a day after the country’s general election on Sunday. Citizens voted for the country’s new collective presidency and deputies at the national and regional levels, deciding between long-standing nationalists and economy-oriented reformists.
Sanctioned, Fadil Novalić was at the top of his party’s list – the main Bosnian Democratic Action Party (SDA) – for the lower house of the FBiH Parliamentary Assembly.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, designated earlier, declared victory as the new president of Republika Srpska, although the opposition also claimed victory for their candidate, blaming Dodik and his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats ( SNSD) of serious electoral fraud.
Just a week earlier, US authorities had named one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s prosecutors, Diana Kajmaković, for her alleged involvement in corruption and her links to criminal organizations.