Read, Debate: Engage.

Whistle-blower arrested for revealing the wrongdoings in Serbian arms factory

October 30th, 2019
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Serbia, Yemen
tags:Aleksandar Obradović, human-rights, Serbia, whistleblower

After the media published that the father of the Serbian interior minister was involved in the purchase of cut-price state arms, which reportedly ended up in hands of Islamic State in Yemen, the whistle-blower Aleksandar Obradović was arrested.

As an employee of the state arms factory Krušik, in the Serbian town of Valjevo, Obradović leaked some very consequential documents. They showed that Branko Stefanović, the father of Serbian interior minister and vice prime minister Nebojša Stefanović, represents a private company called GIM. GIM buys the munitions from Krušik at privileged rates compared to competition, and then exports the weapons to the US, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

“Some of these weapons, however, have ended up with terrorists in Yemen”, the website armswatch.com claimed on September 15, publishing a part of, as they said, “explosive” documents from Krušik, including e-mails, internal memos, contracts, photos, delivery schedules, packing lists and scanned passports of arms dealers and government officials from the three countries.  

Referring to Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, which started to report on this topic a year ago, the website also published pictures showing mortar shells manufactured by Krušik in the hands of Islamic State terrorists. The author claimed they often appear in their propaganda videos in Yemen, explaining their clearly visible identification marks. 

Three days later after this story was published, police and intelligence entered the factory Krušik and arrested Obradović, took his work and personal computers and transferred him to Belgrade Central Jail. The very first information came out more than three weeks later. Belgrade-based weekly magazine NIN published an off-the-record article on October 10. Three days later people in Belgrade had gathered to protest and to demand Obradović to be released. The very next day after he was transferred from jail to house arrest.

“It’s pitiful that in this country we have more trust in investigative reporters than in the state’s investigative bodies”, Obradović told to BIRN in his first interview after leaving Belgrade Central Jail.

His family was allowed only three visits a month. He couldn’t get anything from outside, including the newspaper. He could only speak with family over a phone and through bulletproof glass. 

“I had no idea what was going on outside the prison those past days. In jail, you have six national TV channels and when you watch them, you get the impression that the country is like Switzerland, everything is fine, nothing is going on … I had no idea about the situation concerning me”, he added.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Obradović is suspected of tampering with business intelligence. Obradović admits leaking information but denies having committed a crime. He rather revealed one and wanted the truth to be heard.

“I told the prosecutor everything. I have nothing to hide. I didn’t hide anything, didn’t lie, didn’t steal a thing. All I wanted was for the truth on how Krušik does business to come out,” says Aleksandar Obradović.

Human rights activists warn instead of receiving police protection as a whistle-blower for pointing out possible abuses, he was deprived of his freedom as though he was a dangerous criminal. At the same time, those who damaged the state-owned company sleep well, with no investigation into them.

However, Transparency Serbia says article 20 of the law on protecting whistle-blowers allows the possibility of the whistle-blower contacting prosecutors, state auditors and ministries but not the public or journalists directly.  

On the other hand, Rodoljub Šabić, Serbia’s former ombudsman for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection said that trade secret information is not considered such if it was made secret in order to conceal a crime or other wrongdoing by the state.

Last Saturday’s anti-government protest in Belgrade, which took place for 46th time (every Saturday since December 8, 2018), was devoted to Krušik whistle-blower Aleksandar Obradović and included a march to the public prosecutor’s office which brought charges against him. They demanded Obradović’s release from house arrest.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Author
Support Fairplanet

We depend on readers like you to keep our impact journalism strong.

Fostering global inclusion all our journalists are being paid equally across the planet.

Thanks to a grant each first time user receives 100 coins (10 €) for FREE. Use the code "fairplanet" after clicking the donation button.

Or click the red info icon for instructions.

The leaked documents showed that Branko Stefanović, the father of Serbian interior minister and vice prime minister Nebojša Stefanović, represents a private company called GIM.
GIM buys the munitions from Krušik at privileged rates compared to competition, and then exports the weapons to the US, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.
“Some of these weapons, however, have ended up with terrorists in Yemen”, the website armswatch.com claimed on September 15.
map tooltip