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International organised crime meets Bosnian lawyer joke

To help combat the scourge of organised crime in places like Belgrade and Sarajevo, foreign governments have invested millions in the construction of spanking new courthouses to assist with something called “the rule of law”.  In Bosnia & Herzegovina, they’ve gone a step further. They sent the lucky people there foreign lawyers, to work in the Bosnian State Court and prosecute corrupt oligarchs and war criminal mafiosi. At least, that was the plan. 

Unfortunately, sometimes the international organised crime prosecutors didn’t actually have much, if any, experience of prosecuting organised criminals before getting the job.

 One case in point was the Chief International Prosecutor who has recently left Bosnia & Herzegovina under somewhat controversial circumstances. In late January, the prosecutor told the media that reports he was being removed were “rumours” that “someone was spreading against him.” The Party Line over at the State Court was somewhat different. They said he was “leaving” for “personal reasons”. There appeared to be a good deal of chuckling in the corridors of justice and the various Sarajevo watering holes where the legal and not so legal communities, gather. 

Much of the talk centred on the fact that the international prosecutor never actually prosecuted anyone in Bosnia.

 But this in itself would not be a reason for dismissal as the one thing that Bosnia can't get enough of is more lawyers, particularly foreign lawyers with little or no experience.

So forget emergency food aid for the desperately poor (of which there are many), focus instead on providing donor funds for foreign lawyer fees, preferably to pay prosecutors who don't  prosecute, don't speak the language and know little about local legal customs or organised crime. 


To be fair, it should be pointed out that although he did not prosecute in Bosnia, this particular legal eagle did contribute to a high powered Congressional Inquiry in the United States by using official Bosnia & Herzegovina State Court letterhead paper to write a letter of support for a rich friend being investigated and later indicted by U.S prosecutors in America’s biggest corporate ethics scandal of the year. In a letter you can read here and here,  Bosnia’s Chief International Organised Crime Prosecutor took time off from not prosecuting Bosnian bad guys to write a rather long letter in defence of one of America’s most powerful women.  In defence of his mate, who has been accused – the behaviour of some Balkan oligarchs comes to mind here – of conspiracy and ordering surveillance on journalists, the prosecutor wrote:  “The foregoing questions can only be answered upon completion of a careful and thorough independent investigation and not by speculation, innuendo and baseless allegations pieced together by the media” Apart from defending rich friends accused of serious (?) organised (?) crime (?) through the pooh-poohing of media reporting, there was not a lot of successful organised crime prosecuting done at the State Court during his tenure. 

Numerous alleged villains got away with reduced sentences, or were set free, released from pre-trial custody or declared innocent, leaving the IC’s international organised crime prosecuting strategy, like much of that in the Schwarz-Schilling era, looking rather tired.

 But the most interesting decision made during this whole sorry period was to downgrade one particular case by removing another international from the prosecution team.  The case is part of a wider epic, elements of which have already been investigated by the World Bank fraud unit and the Bosnian financial police.  For some reason – perhaps because a U.S private security company funded by the Pentagon and other government agencies was implicated- the Bosnian police report, filed with the Sarajevo prosecutors office in 2001 never resulted in a published indictment.  This latest case, if prosecuted properly would help lift the lid on post-war Bosnia’s dirtiest secret: how millions in international aid went to assorted mafias, war criminals and their support networks as well as shed light on one of the reasons behind Radovan “boy from Brazil” Karadzic’s enduring freedom.  

Will the State Court provide the venue for more Bosnian lawyer jokes or the serious prosecution of organised crime ? The jury is still out, but only just.

Human Capital!

As long we do not have enough educated people we will have this kind of problem. Foreign aid will continue to come in next years but if we leave execution of project to our people aid would probably became profit as so many times before. On the other side foreigners who are coming to work on these projects are often people with questionable moral qualities. This is neither first nor last example of that.

We have to invest more in our youth. To send them outside to study but again to bring them back home to work. Good example is project of Foundation for Young Talents (Government of Serbia). Without human capital we do not have future!

By far

the best blog on this page and only one, single comment.

Thanks, Hugh, great blog. Another one.

He has left us

speechless. It's great that someone is digging into the murjy muddle of past-Dayton Bosnia. Most articles in mainstream media are pretty shallow.

I agree with the comments

I agree with the comments above, another great text from the author of this blog. Now, I have one question, and I'd appreciate it if either Hugh or anyone else could explain it to me. I am not well familiar with the situation in either Bosnia or Serbia regarding foreign professionals in different fields (but I feel that this would soon change, thanx to the texts of Mr. Griffiths:), but obviously some (most?) of them are neither very professional nor hard-working. Now, if these positions are so well-paid, why is it that there are not more real, honest, diligent experts who would like to come here? I mean, people who really can and want to help either us or Bosnians. It's not as if they will starve, and this is not really the end of the world in a geographical sense, like, for example, sub-saharan Africa... You are only a few hours' drive away from EU (Hungary), and as far as I know, foreigners who come here are extremely well paid. So, to recapitulate my question - why do we have here people who cannot do anything for us, while those who could genuinely help us are nowhere to be seen?

p.s. I am aware that there are exceptions, and this is in no way related to all of the foreigners residing in Serbia or Bosnia.

an arrest

I noticed that a person associated with one of the companies you may be referring to was arrested recently in Bosnia....

This case is so iRONiC, Oh, wouldn't you agree?

If we could...

have a teeny weeny hint as to whom this pertains to... :)


Mr. Griffiths, your blog is like a breath of fresh air. Keep posting!

legal eagle

I’m sorry, but I couldn't ignore the contents of the letter Mr Justice of Bosnia had written. I am learning something new about the US officials every now and then, but, apart from reading some FBI files on John Lennon and some serious shit (meaning reports) from the CIA, I don’t think that I have ever come across this type of document. Justice is writing about the history of his relationship with Patti’s family. To me that’s fascinating. It’s like reading a soap opera proposal. My Close-Knit Life with the Dunns, would be the appropriate title.

I do not wish to reduce the seriousness of the case and the OC both in Serbia and in Bosnia, but to go on and write in such a detailed manner, about “enjoying the privilege of having been accepted and treated as an extended member of her large, extremely close-knit loving and supportive family…” He even furthers on about her children Debbie, Mary and Lou… and her mother Ruth. I’m exaggerating, I know.

Reading this letter, I conclude the following: this man is either stupid, or American Judicial System is stupid enough to buy this crap. But, the prosecutors indicted her, despite this heart breaking letter.

Why do they keep sending the likes of Montgomery and Mr Justice to the Balkans, is beyond my understanding. Would it be a libel to call them small town crooks?