A WRITTEN OFF MUNICIPALITY IN KRAJINA: Corruption and anarchy have created multimillion damage and uncertainty

In addition to favoring certain companies for which he is being tried, and extracting money from the budget for the company “Komunalije”, the biggest problem lately, according to the interlocutors, is the non-issuance of building permits, due to which the damage is measured in millions.

Inforadar’s investigative team

Due to non-issuance of building permits, lack of investment in the community, corruption and severe years-long political crisis in the Municipality of Velika Kladuša, managed by Fikret Abdić, the damage to the citizens is measured in tens of millions of BAM, claim the interlocutors of our portal.

Since he has assumed the position of mayor in 2016 as the candidate of Labor party, Fikret Abdić Babo, convicted war criminal who had municipal majority at that time, has not stopped causing crisis and damage to which no one has an answer yet.

Although Abdić is being tried for abuse of office for four years already, he became an election winner again in 2020 and has continued to “rule” this municipality as the mayor. Our interlocutors point out indignantly that Abdić is controlling the municipal budget himself, and that he has secured financial benefit and building of a voting machine by numerous illegal activities thus almost ruining the municipality.

In addition to favoring certain companies for which he is being tried, and extracting money from the budget for the company “Komunalije”, the biggest problem lately, according to the interlocutors, is the non-issuance of building permits, due to which the damage is measured in millions.

Economic development of the municipality, new investments and opening of new companies is prevented by sabotage of issuance of building permits. Some citizens and employers are thinking about leaving this city due to this situation, said Nedžad Mezildžić, president of the Employers’ Association Velika Kladuša.

Mezildžić says that Velika Kladuša is a serious case and that this is a problem of the BiH Council of Ministers, FBiH Government, the Office of the High Representative, Canton…

“The damages in the last three years are immeasurable due to arbitrariness of the mayor Fikret Abdić. More than 2.000 various requests have been blocked in the municipality. Many companies that have planned to invest in our municipality left. All investments and economic development have been halted. More than 300 jobs have been most certainly lost, and we are a municipality that is attractive to the companies and has a development potential. The municipality’s biggest investment are sidewalks that they are making”, stressed Mezildžić adding that all institutions from the municipal to the state level have been contacted, but nothing is happening.

“They have done nothing; they are lying to us and the only thing they know how to do is to send an inspection. The only thing that we can do is to leave this municipality. This is a written off, lost city. The judiciary is active when someone steals two meters of firewood, but there is no response to the blockade of the entire municipality. In addition to the problem of non-issuance of building permits, there is no other development. The expressway is not planned, the border crossing isn’t working, we are waiting for seven hours to cross it, etc.”, said Mezildžić.

Foto: Mezildžić

Mersad Sarajlija, a journalist from Velika Kladuša, says that the investments have been stopped in this city a long time ago and that no progress is possible.

“There is no one to issue building permits for three and a half years already, people are forced to work illegally. There are no investments. The judiciary institutions don’t have an adequate law to address this situation and therefore we have found ourselves in an impasse. This is dangerous as it might become a model to other municipalities in the FBiH. The people who are voting for him are blaming the Municipal council for the situation in the municipality, and numerous bots have been recruited at the local level and they are spreading lies and attacking people on the social networks. In this year alone he has pumped around three and a half million BAM into “Komunalije”, where there is excessive employment and they are doing things that have nothing to do with utility services. Due to excessing employment we are often witnessing absurd situations in the city where employees are collecting leaves from the streets on a daily basis or 12 of them are working on 4 square meters of the promenade. The sport is on its knees, and we have a senior sports team that is not competing in any of the leagues. The cultural center has not become operational, there are no institutions. The citizens are embittered, but are becoming indifferent because nothing is happening. There was some hope in 2020 that a new mayor will come, but it didn’t happen. The opponent lost by 300 votes. The damage in the local community can be measured in tens of millions of BAM,” said Sarajlija.

Amir Purić, until recently member of the Municipal Council from Naša stranka in Velika Kladuša, and currently member of the FBiH Parliament, also claims that the municipal mayor Fikret Abdić is sabotaging the work of the majority in the Municipal Council and exercises autocracy.

“When Abdić came to power in 2016 they had a majority of 15 councilors until 2020, since two DF councilors went to Labor Party. After 2020, in his second term, he did not have majority, but “several coincidences had happened that Abdić exploited”.

“The chairman of the Municipal Council passed away in 2021 during the period of Corona virus and Abdić exploited that fact. The deputy chairwoman was doing the work of the chairperson for two years, which is against the rules. Planning and building permits were not issued in all that time because there is no valid spatial plan. There has to be a commission appointed by the Municipal Council. He tried to solve it by appointing an agency from Banjaluka as an expert institution that will do the work of the municipal commission. This did not go through because the agency from Banjaluka saw that there was no legal basis. However, the mayor still does not want to appoint that commission because he does not want to lose the monopoly over the issuance of these permits as it provides good chance for corrupt practices and money making. If he can’t have control, then at least he will prevent everyone else from appointing a commission and addressing the issue of building permits,” said Purić.

Foto: Amir Purić

Abdić had at one point seized the stamp from the Municipal Council, but the court prevented it. Then, according to Purić, uncommon arbitrariness and anarchy broke loose.

“Then he resorted to locking the council’s chamber and not recognizing the municipal council, and since then the decisions of the council have not been implemented for a year. All decisions are implemented by the mayor without the council. Decisions are not published in the official gazette and are therefore not implemented, this being the way in which his and arbitrariness of his nine advisors is being exercised,” emphasized Purić.

Fuad Sulejmanagić, chairperson of the People’s European Alliance BiH (NES BiH) caucus, also speaks about the chaos in this municipality. He claims that ever since he has assumed the position of Velika Kladuša mayor Fikret Abdić has been constantly undermining official bodies at all levels of authority in BiH, and thus the Municipal Council as a representative body of the citizens.

Foto: Komunalije

“The mayor has been proclaiming the budget of the municipality by himself for the last few years, using a shell game to avoid timely deliberation of the Decision on budget in order to proclaim it alone in the form he had put it forward proposed it.  There are numerous examples of mayor observing the decisions of the Municipal Council, not implementing them, awarding funds under dubious criteria to the Association of “Agrokomerc” shareholders where he is president of the Assembly, “General Kladuša Cooperative” founded by his advisors, and the Public utility company “Komunalije” Velika Kladuša. The loans given to these associations, cooperatives and companies were never repaid, and since 2008 the public enterprises have never submitted the report on business operations or on spending of the funds they had received to the Municipal Council and we are talking about millions,” said Sulejmanagić.

He notes that the municipal attorney’s office did not give a positive opinion on most of these activities, but that did not prevent the mayor from giving the funds to the mentioned entities.

Foto: Fuad Sulejmanagić

“Because of all this, and especially because of the court epilogue that is still ongoing in “Networkaffair, he lost parliamentary majority in the Municipal Council as 5 councilors left the Labor caucus and since then he didn’t have majority in the Municipal Council, although the Labor caucus is the most numerous one in the council. However, it does not prevent him from continuing to violate the laws of this country from the position of executive power, and two confirmed indictments of the Cantonal Court and Municipal Court on Bihać in the “Network” and “Stamp” cases are the result of that. Thus, the judicial institutions are monitoring the work of municipal bodies, and are acting, but slowly, indolently, tardily. In the period from 2016 to 2023, Fikret Abdić attended sessions of the council a total of 3 or 4 times, he never attended meetings of the council’s college, although it is his legal obligation, and he pushes his son, who is his adviser and who represents him in all the affairs, public and the media, to the forefront”, emphasized Sulejmanagić.

On November 13, 2023 the Constitutional Court of the Federation of BiH rendered a ruling that the Budget of the Municipality of Velika Kladuša for 2023 and the Decision on its execution, which were proclaimed by the Mayor of the Municipality, are unconstitutional and illegal. Also, it is stated that the Deputy Chairwoman of the Municipal Council, Velika Kladuša, has illegally resumed the powers of the Chairman of the Municipal Council all along. The complexity of the case is proved by the fact that  the ruling was rendered by outvoting of judges in the Chamber and was written on 17 pages.

The judgment of the FBiH Constitutional Court of November 13, 2023

According to our interlocutors the mayor’s office triumphantly commented the ruling  of the FBiH Constitutional Court and nothing has changed. Sulejmanagić claims that the obstructions by Fikret Abdić make it difficult to forecast a positive outcome and a way out of the current situation, which would benefit the citizens of Velika Kladuša.

“Fikret Abdić has been in constant conflict with the official institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina since the “Agrokomerc” affair in the eighties of the last century, and the establishment and proclamation of “AP of Western Bosnia” that got him convicted and given the epithet of a war criminal, all under the slogan that everyone is against him and using the well-known matrix “if you are not with him and do not think like him, then you are his enemy and the enemy of the people of Kladuša”, which is not and cannot be true. That is why I am of the opinion that the saga of Fikret Abdić will not end before the local elections in 2024, and then all those healthy forces that are manifested through the citizens of Velika Kladuša will be put to the test, and will have to lay out a better and more positive life in Velika Kladuša next year”, said Sulejmanagić.

He points out Agrofenix as the biggest illegal actions and damages to Velika Kladuša.

“There is not enough space to list it all. One of the frauds after the proclamation of the AP of Westen Bosnia and the pushing of his own people into a war is the fraud that had happened at the end of 2012 i.e. in 2013 and that is establishment of the company “Agrofenix”. He had then used our people, particularly our fellow citizens living and working in the countries of Europe, America, Canada, Australia, using the story about the start of a “new” Agrokomerc to extract millions of marks for the launch of production in that company. Today, ten years after, there is nothing left from that story, but all these funds are very useful for him to settle the debts in the Republic of Croatia in his companies “Finab” and “Echo Parm”. Everything that Abdić has done since its election as the mayor of Velika Kladiša caused multi-million damage to Velika Kladuša and its citizens. Velika Kladuša does not have spatial planning documents since 2014, namely Spatial plan of the municipality has not been adopted. There was a Commission for expert opinion in the process of issuing planning documents until 2018 or 2019, but it also no longer exists, so today there are approximately 3.000 requests from citizens for the issuance of spatial planning documents in the administrative body, and this is reflected in the multi-million damage to the Budget of Velika Kladuša, and those mostly affected by this are the citizens of Velika Kladuša, the economic sector, and the domestic companies. This is why today we have illegal construction in Velika Kladuša, stagnation of economic activities, inaction of municipal services, we do not have a municipal attorney, a construction inspector and a lot of other things that are significant for a local community and its citizens”, said Sulejmanagić.

Rifat Dolić, president of DNZ Velika Kladuša, says that there is an established rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina that an election victory is political loot, “but here it went a little further, so the municipality became private property”.

“Velika Kladuša is known for its strange political crisis. The budget has been adopted illegally for five years; the parliamentary majority has no way to exercise its right. Velika Kladuša is sinking more and more and there is no response from the higher institutions of the state. We have the feeling that this is the result of the BiH judiciary’s tardiness, but also partly the attitude towards Velika Kladuša that other municipalities might not have,” emphasized Dolić.

Foto: Rifat Dolić

He adds that the opposition will not forcefully remove the mayor as “it is waiting on the judiciary, but it isn’t working”.

“The damage amounts to tens of millions of BAM. We will celebrate the day that the mayor leaves this municipality asLiberation Day. As an entrepreneur myself, I had problems because I could not get a building permit for a structure, and I got it in a second-instance procedure from a Federation institution in Mostar. We don’t know what he is doing. How many advisers he has, where he spends money, who he hires“, said Dolić.

Foto: Fikret Abdić nakon izlazska iz zatvora 2012-te godine

Photo: Fikret Abdić after  release from prison in 2012

Dolić points out that an atmosphere of reconciliation in Krajina was created until 2012, where those killed on both sides were jointly remembered. However, since Fikret got out of prison, “everything has gone wrong and now the citizens are again divided to “those supporting Babo and others”.

“He works on the principle of conspiracy; he is a victim and everyone works against him and that is why people side with him. In 12 years he has not deigned to visit the cemetery where AP WB members, who died for him, are buried,” said Dolić.

Sulejmanagić points out that Velika Kladuša is a unique example in Europe where the municipal mayor is a convicted war criminal, who was convicted by a European member state, and therefore Velika Kladuša and its citizens have been suffering for many years now.

“In the end, I regret that we did not have the strength and political wisdom to vote no confidence to Fikret Abdić, to let him go down in history as the deposed mayor and show that the citizens of Velika Kladuša are getting rid of the burden in the form of Fikret Abdić forever. Of course, next year is an election year and I am convinced that the citizens will clearly say which way they want to go, or will continue to be in the jaws of politics that did not bring them anything positive”, said Sulejmanagić.

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