Bosnian regional president arrested in graft probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 26, 2013 12:49 PM
Bosnian regional president arrested in graft probe

By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The president of Bosnia's autonomous Muslim-Croat federation and 19 another regional officials were arrested on Friday in an anti-corruption probe that also targeted the offices of the regional government, a spokesman for the state prosecutor said.

The raid on Zivko Budimir's Sarajevo office and the regional government in the southern town of Mostar is the most high-profile anti-graft operation in Bosnia since independence more than two decades ago.

"Budimir and 19 other federation officials have been arrested," spokesman Boris Grubesic told Reuters by telephone. "The group will be handed over to the prosecutor who will decide on further proceedings," he added.

During the six-hour operation, police searched the offices of the federation president and government as well as a number of private apartments of the region's top officials, said Grubesic.

The police also searched the premises of the regional commission in charge of pardoning convicted criminals and arrested the head of the commission.

Local media have previously reported that Budimir was suspected of taking bribes in exchange for granting amnesty to a number of convicts.

Federation Vice President Mirsad Kebo said on Friday he had earlier asked the region's Constitutional Court to examine the legality of procedures by which some criminals have been granted amnesty over the past two years.

Budimir is at the center of a political crisis in the Muslim-Croat Federation that blew open last year. He is refusing to approve a reshuffle of the regional government and delaying the appointment of judges to the constitutional court.

Under a U.S.-brokered peace deal to end the war, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions joined by a weak central government. The Federation is dominated by Bosnian Muslims, known as Bosniaks, and Croats. The other region is the Serb Republic. Both have a high degree of autonomy. (Editing by Matt Robinson)