|The Srebrenica memorial centre with the graves of victims of the massacres. Photo: Maurits90/Wikicommons.|
A joint investigation by the Republika Srpska Tax Administration and police has found alleged evidence implicating the US-based lobbyist, Stefan Karganovic, in possible tax evasion and embezzlement of government funds, officials have said.
Republika Srpska police estimate that the lobbyist, who is of Serbian origin, owes the entity 53,000 euros in unpaid taxes.
However, officials said the final amount could be much higher since the police investigation and previous auditors’ reports suggested that Karganovic was handling much bigger funds during his employment by a non-government organisation funded by the Republika Srpska authorities.
BIRN contacted Karganovic for his reaction but he said he did not know about the allegations and did not want to speak about them.
Karganovic is a historian of Serbian origin who was living in the US but now lives in Belgrade. In 2008 he was appointed as the head of an NGO called the Historical Project Srebrenica, which was formally based in the Netherlands.
Karganovic was hired to dispute facts established by the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in The Hague about the genocide which Bosnian Serb forces committed in July 1995 against Bosniaks from Srebrenica.
The former prime minister and now president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, announced in 2007 that his government would revise a report which was prepared by the entity’s previous government in 2004, which confirmed that Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 7,000 Bosniaks during and after the fall of Srebrenica.
Last June, a month before the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, Dodik also announced his intention to challenge the findings of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, which confirmed that the mass murder and persecution of Bosniaks from Srebrenica was a crime of genocide.
It was after his first announcement in 2007 that Karganovic’s NGO started receiving funds from the Republika Srpska budget.
BIRN found that at its session in March 2008, the Republika Srpska government endorsed the planned activities of the NGO and told its finance ministry to provide Karganovic with the necessary funds, while the entity’s secretariat for cooperation with the ICTY was charged with providing him with technical and administrative assistance.
According to the Republika Srpska finance ministry, Karganovic’s NGO received 400,000 euros each year from the entity’s budget in the period from 2007 to 2009.
The investigation into Karganovic and his NGO was launched in summer 2014, after the Republika Srpska Independent Auditor reviewed its financial operations.
In its report, which has been seen by BIRN, the auditor found that it was “impossible to establish a consistent link between [the NGO’s] planned and implemented activities”.
In 2014, the government stopped funding the project and cut all connections with Karganovic, an official from the government told BIRN, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Republika Srpska opposition parties also said that they also warned Dodik that Karganovic was misusing budgetary funds.
“It is estimated that, on the basis of political patronage, Karganovic received at least 1.9 million convertible marks [close to a million euros] from the entity budget from 2008 to 2014,” said Dragan Cavic, leader of the opposition People’s Democratic Movement, NDP.
He called on the authorities not just to focus on the tax evasion charges, but to investigate more deeply how Karganovic came to spend so much taxpayers’ money.
Republika Srpska interior minister Dragan Lukac said he would not give more information about Karganovic or the NGO at the centre of the fraud allegations.
“I can’t talk about the project and how he spends money,” Lukac told media.
“I can only say that he received money for the project, didn’t pay taxes, he has been charged and he will answer for that,” he added.