According to new documents obtained by Kosovo website Kallxo.com, the Serbian government used its budget to fund the legal defense of politicians accused of corruption in at least two 2021 court cases.
The financial resources that Serbian authorities committed to the defense of the individuals under investigation are detailed in papers obtained by investigators through requests for access to public records in the Leposavic municipality.
In response to requests for comment, the Pristina Basic Court said it stays out of agreements made by attorneys and defendants about legal representation. The Kosovo Bar Association has not responded to requests for comment.
According to the documents, Serbia’s government provided funding to five Kosovo-licensed attorneys, two Serbs and three Albanians, so they could represent Kosovo Serbs facing accusations of corruption.
The Judicial Council of Kosovo is required by law to pay legal costs for defendants who are unable to afford legal representation; nevertheless, it is somewhat revealing that the defendants chose to use public funding from a neighboring country rather than this option.
Attorney Shyqyri Syla of Mitrovica acknowledged in a written response that he was called in July 2011 by Jelica Barac, who was charged with abusing her position in the Leposavic municipality.
Prior to surpassing the official retirement age in May 2011, Syla served as the region’s chief prosecutor for Mitrovica.
According to records, months later, the Serbian government paid 69,000 Serbian dinars, or about 590 euros, for Syla’s services.
Syla informed investigators that Barac, who he had never met previously, had gotten in touch with him in July 2021 to request his legal services.
He gave reporters a bill worth 2,500 euros that he received from the defendant in August of this year, which was later credited to his Mitrovica bank account.
In a written statement, Syla said “I am not aware if these funds were reimbursed to the defendant as it did not interest me, because I received the payment from the defendant.”
Barac has since died.
Another lawyer, Asdren Hoxha, received 94,500 Serbian dinars (805 euros). Hoxha declined to comment.
Among the documents related to Hoxha’s file was the decision of the Director of the Kosovo Office within Serbia’s government, Petar Petkovic, to hire Kosovo lawyers. The bills used to pay for the defense of politicians accused of corruption were signed by Zoran Todic, head of Leposavic municipality, an organization understood in Kosovo to be a Serbia-run parallel structure.
The logo of the parallel institution sits on the documents with the inscription “Republic of Serbia – Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.”
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