by Evica SPASIC
Liquidity: The speed with which the Commercial Court acted in this case is more than impressive. That institution, thoroughly discredited during the previous regime, has been unable to finalize numerous cases for years. For example, the liquidation of Dafiment Bank. However, in this case it reacted momentarily.
That probably would not have provoked much attention if this was not one of the few liquid financial institutions in the country. To initiate a liquidation of the Postal Savings bank is indeed a scandal, as further developments revealed, with deep political background. Furthermore, if the Postal Savings Bank were not a strong financial institution, this whole story (especially its political part) probably would not have happened. Governor Dinkic without flinching accused "a part of the leadership of the Democratic Party" of exerting pressure on the court and going as far as trying to destroy the Postal Saving Bank only to make sure that "their man" become its director.
Veselin Stijovic, president of the trade union "Nezavisnost" of PTT Serbia, went a step further and at a press conference (organized by three trade unions of the Postal Savings Bank) as a "guest trade unionist" revealed the essence of the dispute. According to Stijovic, the Democratic Party is trying to at all cost push its members to the management positions of three key systems in Serbia - the Telecom Serbia, PTT Serbia, and the Postal Savings Bank. Stijovic mentioned that the federal telecommunications minister, Boris Tadic is vice-president of the Democratic Party, that the Serbian Minister of Transport (including the postal services) Marija Raseta-Vukosavljevic (infamous for the fact that her husband is Zoran Djindjic's chief of security) is also from the Democratic Party and that the struggle over the Telecom Serbia has been going on for months.
Trade unionists: These three systems are interesting, besides their political significance, because they process large amounts of cash. These are profitable companies, unlike numerous large state-owned unprofitable companies that haven't been objects of dispute. Representatives of all three trade unions of the Postal Savings Bank tried to be moderate at their press conference, and even conspiratorial. They pleaded that all "possible" political pressure be stopped, appealed that the company on which they depend not be destroyed, and that the issue of management and control be resolved in some less drastic manner. President of the largest trade union Zoran Radiskovic muttered that he had been receiving threats, that he would like to "protect his family, which is most important", and consequently at this moment he was not willing to reveal the identity of the individuals and political parties that were causing trouble with the Postal Savings Bank. He only believes that a bank with a million and a half customers, stable savings deposits, that hasn't had losses for a single day, should not be liquidated.
However, these arguments were irrelevant as far as Goran Kljajevic, the newly appointed president of the Commercial Court in Belgrade, was concerned. He felt the need to personally organize a press conference and defend himself from "a campaign orchestrated" against him in the public, according to Kljajevic, by Governor Dinkic and his "emissaries" disguised as trade unionists. Kljajevic fired a broadside at Governor Dinkic and accused him of violating laws, of meddling in the work of the court and the selection of the director of the Postal Savings Bank that is owned by the Republic of Serbia, not Dinkic.
Kljajevic explained to the journalists that PTT Serbia is hundred percent owned by the state and therefore under direct control of the Serbian government. The Republic of Serbia also owns 81 percent of the Postal Savings Bank and consequently the government of Serbia owns that bank as well. Therefore, Kljajevic explained Serbian minister Marija Raseta-Vukovasljevic had the right to address the court with a letter demanding that the "court take another look at the appointment of the director of the Postal Savings Bank". Thereby Kljajevic, probably inadvertently, admitted that the letter existed. According to his expertise, Raseta as the Minister of Transport has the right to "control the system of communications and she got involved on that basis, and that does not constitute pressure exerted on the court."
President of court Kljajevic had, according to his own admission, a pretty unfriendly reception at the press conference, as he ended up facing several former colleagues from the daily newspaper Borba, which he destroyed several years ago and handed over to the then JUL member Dragutin Brcin and legendary Ivan Markovic.
Omnipotence of the court: In addition Kljajevic is also in charge of the liquidation of Dafiment Bank but despite hard and diligent work he hasn't been able to wrap that case up for several years already. The situation with JIK Bank is identical. The new authorities have started paying old foreign currency deposits to everyone but the former customers of the JIK Bank because the governor (as he personally complained) hasn't been able to obtain from the Commercial Court documentation about customers and their deposits. Now, as we have learned, a foreign bank is prepared to buy JIK Bank and take over her employees and obligations, but the deal can't go through because of Kljajevic.
If the most striking impression drawn from all of this is that of omnipotence of the Commercial Court in this country, that impression is incorrect. The situation is exactly the contrary. The fear is that the new authorities, following the example of the old regime, have found their Milena Arezina [judge of Commercial Court who assisted Milosevic's regime in clamping down on the independent media], who will politicize the court and allow the authorities to use is as a tool in political showdowns.
Let us return at this point to Dinkic. He very clearly and publicly said that he started this dispute with a part of the government of Serbia represented by the Democratic Party and that the object of dispute is influence and jurisdiction. Dinkic claims that he did not appoint the director of the Postal Savings Bank but that he merely sent his opinion after an interview with both proposed candidates, after a request from the Governing Board of the Postal Savings Bank. And in Dinkic's opinion (later appointed) Stanivukovic was better qualified than the candidate proposed by Minister Raseta, Miroslav Despotovic. Both of them are employees of the Postal Savings Bank.
Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic also stepped into the fray. He claims that this is not the first Dinkic's inappropriate statement, there were more in the past. The message seems to be that the Governor is a conflict prone person and that his statements should not be taken seriously. However, at the same time, the Ministry of Justice (minister Vladan Batic, a member of DHSS, which in turn is a member of the DOS) requested from the Higher Commercial Court and the Supreme Court of Serbia to reconsider the decision of the Commercial Court in Belgrade about the pre-liquidation process over the Postal Savings Bank and introduction of temporary administration. The statement of this ministry "reminded" that there were "pressures of certain state and political factors on the court in this case". That, the statement concludes, harms the reputation of the judiciary.
Finally, the pinnacle of the theater of the absurd, judge of the Commercial Court Ljiljana Mujagic, who made the decision to impose temporary administration on the Postal Savings Bank and initiate the liquidation of the bank suddenly demanded that the liquidation be stopped. In the letter she sent to the Liquidation and Bankruptcy Department she states that "in accordance with the instructions of the president of the court" she had first initiated the liquidation until the omissions in the entry in the court registry were corrected. As the "omission" has been corrected in the meantime, now she demands that the liquidation be stopped. It is interesting that Goran Kljajevic, president of the court, never mentioned that "omission". He claims that the whole procedure for the selection of the director of the Postal Savings Bank was unlawful. He even asserted that the director was appointed by the illegal representative of PTT Serbia on the Governing board.