- Abuse of office
- 2nd instance verdict
Description of the case
On 30 December 2015, Serbian authorities arrested eight suspects for illegally swapping agricultural land belonging to BD Agro, as part of mass arrests in an anti-corruption action known as Operation Rezač (“Operation Shredder”).
The Prosecutor's Office for Organised Crime launched an investigation against Zoran Jeličić, former director of the Agricultural Land Administration, Djuro Obradović, majority owner of BD Agro, BD Agro CEO Ljubiša Jovanović, Nikola Jakšić of the Agricultural Land Administration, and four members of the land swap committee: Tomislav Pavlović, Boban Golubović, Zoran Jovanović and Dragan Tufegdžić.
The suspects were charged with abuse of office and abuse of official position for illegally exchanging agricultural land between 14 August 2008 and 26 March 2010. Under a January 2010 land exchange agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture, BD Agro of Dobanovci swapped over 46 hectares of land with the state. However, according to the investigation, the land swap partly involved land that had been nationalised in post-WWII agricultural reforms, was subject to restitution and already returned to its original owners, independent farmers. As a result, the state budget suffered damages of almost RSD1 billion.
The prosecution argued that BD Agro CEO Jovanović and BD Agro owner Obradović were aware of the situation when BD Agro exchanged the land for land owned by the state, effectively giving land to Serbia that BD Agro did not own and receiving other land parcels in exchange.
Jovanović and Obradović submitted a supplement to the land swap request to Nikola Jakšić, an employee of the Agricultural Land Administration, who had already initiated the procedure. Jakšić accepted the request even though he knew that the land offered by BD Agro had already been returned to the farmers by the commission on land restitution in the Belgrade municipality of Zemun.
Jakšić’s order set up a land swap committee that consisted of Pavlović, Golubović, Jovanović and Tufegdžić. The committee members signed the documents to approve the exchange. They did so even though they did not obtain the required evidence indicating that the municipal land restitution commission had completed the restitution process. Based on the land swap committee’s position, the director of the Agricultural Land Administratio
Applicable corruption offence
Criminal Code: abuse of office, Article 359 (3); abuse of official position, Article 227 (3)
Other laws breached
Law on Agricultural Land, Article 73(2) states that the exchange of land should have been approved by government decision.
Suspects' institutional affiliation
Officials in the Ministry of Agriculture
Date of offending
Higher Court in Belgrade
Related domestic or foreign cases
There is currently a case before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes between Rand Investment, claiming they are beneficial owners of BD Agro, and the Government of Serbia as a result of the termination of BD Agro’s privatisation agreement.
Current phase of the case in criminal procedure
2st instance verdict
The suspects in the BD Agro case were arrested and detained on 26 December 2015.
On 27 January 2016, the Higher Court in Belgrade lifted the custody of five suspects, while one custody was replaced by bail and house arrest with the suspect ordered to wear an electronic bracelet.
On 5 April 2017, indictment no. KTI 65/16 was filed in the case.
The Higher Court acquitted the defendants on 11 June 2020.
On 26 May 2021, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed the first instance verdict, rejecting the appeal lodged by the Prosecutor’s Office for Organised Crime as unfounded.
Resolution of the case
2nd instance verdict
Applicable minimum and maximum penalty
For abuse of office (Article 359 (3)): prison from two to 12 years
For abuse of official position (Article 227 (3)): prison from two to 12 years
Charges pressed by the prosecutor in the actual case (including the penalties requested)
Abuse of office, Article 359 (3); Abuse of official position, Article 227 (3) of the Criminal Code
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