By Filip Rudic
Following a BIRN investigation into the financing of election war chests by Serbia’s ruling party, President Vucic says his party’s finances are “clean as a whistle”.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has described his ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, as the only party in the country with clean election finances, despite a BIRN investigation into irregularities in campaign donations during a string of recent elections.
“SNS is the only clean party, clean as a whistle […] The SNS has clean money from the account that it is receiving from the state. SNS does not need tycoons,” he told journalists on Wednesday in Vlasotince, where he was opening a new facility at an electronics company.
An investigation published on Tuesday by BIRN did not address the question of party political financing from the state, however, but individual donations to the campaign made by almost 7,000 people during presidential elections in 2017.
The BIRN investigation showed how his party has used proxy donors to disguise the true source of campaign gifts – which are illegal under Serbia’s law on the financing of political activities.
One clue to the organised nature of the donations was the fact that almost all the donors, 98 per cent, to the Progressives gave exactly the same amount: 40,000 dinars.
This flood of uniformly sized donations contributed more than 2 million euros to Vucic’s presidential election campaign – more than a third of his overall war chest of 6.5 million euros.
Most of the rest of the money came from the state budget in line with election rules.
Vucic did not comment on the fact that the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering in 2014 found 135 bank transactions in which people had deposited 40,000 dinars into their accounts and had immediately transferred the same amount to the Progressives in the form of a donation.
While it was impossible to trace the provenance of cash suspected of being laundered through fake donors, the investigation found evidence of systematic flouting of the law by the party in this and previous elections.
In 2017, the Anti-Corruption Agency, ACA, submitted a report to prosecutors urging them to launch criminal proceedings in relation to the transactions, worth some 46,000 euros.
As BIRN previously reported, the prosecutor’s office said it had sent the report back to the ACA for further checks. It declined to comment further. As of publication, it had not pressed charges.