TV Vijesti/Svetlana Đokić
While the debate about whether some police officers in Montenegro are on the mafia’s payroll has been heating up, Vijesti, a Montenegrin daily newspaper and television, asked the Agency for Prevention of Corruption for the right to access the official records about what Agency had detected by cross-checking for inconsistencies between the registered asset declaration data of high-ranking police officers and the assets they actually possess.
Vijesti was not granted the right to access these records and the records that are available to the public raise suspicion.
Institute Alternative believes that, due to the peculiarities of the profession, the internal control of the police would do a better job at performing these cross-checks. This would work only if there was enough political determination to process such cases, which has not been the case till now.
The assets of police officials and police officers are not and cannot be disclosed to the public because the asset declaration data, available on the website of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, is not enough, though it can be indicative.
A more detailed examination reveals something that catches the attention – some high-ranking police officers and their wives have up to several dozens of thousands of euros worth of loans and they don not even own a car. Up until this year the oversight of police asset declarations was under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.
At the time, 500 asset reports had piled up on their desks and they managed to check 140 of them. During 2015, irregularities were detected in two cases.
Starting January this year, this task is under the authority of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption. Their accomplishments so far apparently remain a well-kept secret.
“Apart from 500 police officers, the Agency is in charge of as much as 4500 public officials and 1200 civil servants, which is an enormous number. From January through November this year, the Agency for Prevention of Corruption has checked 1320 asset declarations out of the total number of asset declarations. However, there is no data available about the number of police officers and police officials in that sample, so we remain in the dark about it”, said Dina Bajramspahić from Institute Alternative.
Bajramspahić points out that while this issue was covered by the media, it was not covered by the authorities.
“As you know, there has been a lot of talk in the media – not just recently but also in the past – about a lot of contentious cases that raised concerns about disproportion between income and assets. However, none of those cases was resolved – whether by criminal prosecution or by removing all doubt as to why there was an imbalance between income and assets”, Bajramspahić said.
That is why she warns about the possible consequences of not processing such cases.
“It will keep undermining the integrity of the police as a whole because the police officers who are not prone to corruption will be less motivated to remain so when they notice others doing it with ease without being prosecuted”, Bajramspahić said.
Institute Alternative is not sure if police officers’ asset declarations should even be under the scrutiny of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption. They believe that the police internal control would do a better job at this.
“It is specialized for very specific investigations of police officers, which is, at least in theory, much more difficult. Although it often turns out that it is difficult to prosecute anyone if there is not enough determination to do it, police officers know how the investigation is carried out and, consequently, how to cover their tracks and hide evidence, which makes them more difficult to prosecute”, Bajramspahić said.
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