“Accountable and independent institutions need to investigate corruption and misuse of position, not those working to uncover the wrongdoings themselves. A free press and investigative journalism play an important role in defending public interest in a democracy,” the United States embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina stated on Wednesday.
This was published after Bosnia’s top judicial official became embroiled in a corruption scandal in the middle of May after a secretly-filmed video was released showing him allegedly taking bribes through a middleman.
The eight minute video, filmed in November 2018, was published by the Bosnian investigative news portal Zurnal, and shows a an officer named Marko Pandza from the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) meeting in a cafe with businessman Nermin Alesevic and Milan Tegeltija, the head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC).
In the video Pandza appears to act as an intermediary between Tegeltija and Alesevic, as they discuss Alesevic’s case, which has been slowly handled by the Canton Sarajevo’s Prosecutor’s Office.
Tegeltija, as the head of the HJPC, the body that appoints judges as well as prosecutors and disciplines them, asks Alesevic for the case number and the name of the prosecutor handling it but does not directly ask for any money or favors from the businessman.
Yet when the three exit the cafe the video shows an exchange between Pandza and Alesevic, in which Alesevic counts out the equivalent of US $1143.6 in Bosnian money and hands it to Pandza, who assures him he will give the money to Tegeltija.
“He will take care of it,” Pandza assures Alesevic.
The businessman told N1 that he recorded the video and gave it to foreign embassies and Zurnal in order to expose the corrupt state of Bosnia’s judiciary.
“I did it personally to prove the situation we are in. I worked for two years on proving that the very top is corrupt,” he said.
Zurnal first published a story accusing Tegeltija of corruption which he publically dismissed as fabrication. At an extraordinary meeting of the HJPC on Thursday, all 13 members present expressed support for their president Tegeltija.
An hour after their support hit the news, Zurnal published the compromising video on its website.
Tegeltija again went into defense mode and claimed that the footage only proves his innocence.