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US Sanctions Serbia’s Intelligence Chief Over Alleged Corruption

The US has sanctioned Security Information Agency chief Aleksandar Vulin, one of the closest allies of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, accusing him of fostering corruption and promoting Russia’s interests.

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Aleksandar Vulin, the hardline head of Serbia’s Security Information Agency, BIA, accusing him of involvement in various corrupt activities.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control claimed that pro-Russian politician Vulin has been implicated in transnational organised crime, illegal narcotics operations and misuse of public office.

“Vulin has maintained a mutually beneficial relationship with the US-designated Serbian arms dealer Slobodan Tesic, helping ensure that Tesic’s illegal arms shipments can move freely across Serbia’s borders,” it alleged in a statement.

“Vulin’s acts have advanced corruption within Serbia’s governing institutions,” the statement claimed, accusing him of leveraging his authority for personal gain and involvement in a drug-trafficking ring.

“He has used his public positions to support Russia, facilitating Russia’s malign activities that degrade the security and stability of the Western Balkans and providing Russia a platform to further its influence in the region,” it added.

The sanctions mean that any assets Vulin has under US jurisdiction will be frozen and US businesses and institutions are prohibited from having financial dealings with him.

Vulin was appointed director of the BIA in 2022 and previously served as defence minister and interior minister.

He is the first official from Serbia to be sanctioned while in power since Slobodan Milosevic’s rule in the 1990s. He has yet to comment on the US decision.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control said the sanctions imposerd on Vulin underscore US determination to hold accountable people who are engaged in corrupt dealings that further their own political agendas and personal interests at the expense of peace and stability in the Western Balkans.

It argued that such corrupt dealings facilitate Russia’s activities in Serbia and the region.

Vulin started his political career in the League of Communists – Movement for Yugoslavia, a party formed in 1990 from the old League of Communists of Yugoslavia, the only permitted party in Socialist Yugoslavia.

In 1994, he was one of the founders of the Yugoslav Left, JUL, which was led by Milosevic’s wife, Mirjana Markovic.

JUL worked closely with Milosevic’s Socialists, and in 1996, the party joined Milosevic’s coalition government.

Vulin quit JUL in 1998, after the party formed another coalition government with the Socialists and the Serbian Radical Party.

The current Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list contains 36 people and companies from Serbia, including arms dealer Slobodan Tesic and people and companies allegedly linked to him.

Also on list in Serbia is Luka Karadzic, brother of war criminal Radovan Karadzic, the wartime president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska.

Two former Kosovo Serb leaders, Marko Jaksic and Milan Ivanovic, were blacklisted in 2003 because the US claims they obstructed or posed a significant threat to peace agreements in the former Yugoslavia.

In 2021, the US also sanctioned controversial Kosovo Serb businessman Zvonko Veselinovic, for being “one of Kosovo’s most notorious corrupt figures”.

Sanctions were also imposed on Veselinovic’s brother, Zarko, and another controversial Kosovo Serb businessman, Milan Radoicic, who has strong links to the ruling party in Serbia.

Source : Balkaninsight