Abused function and rewarded with a new one

Dragoslav Topić, the director of the Student Center “Nikola Tesla” and the head of the SNSD municipal council club in the Banja Luka City Assembly, far from the public eye, has been definitively convicted of abuse of official position or authority amounting to 23,000 KM, eTrafika learns.

By: Goran Dakić (eTrafika)

Two years ago, the Livno Cantonal Court convicted Topić, imposing a six-month suspended sentence if he did not commit another criminal offence within a year, a fact that remained completely unknown to the public, despite him being one of the most active local politicians appearing almost daily in the media.

The verdict states that Topić committed the abuse as a public official in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina while serving as the Minister of Labor, Health, Social Welfare, and Displaced Persons in the Government of Canton 10. Despite being convicted of a criminal offence against official duty, the final verdict did not prevent Topić from remaining at the helm of a public institution. The judicial council did not impose a prohibition on holding any position or engaging in any activity, and moral and ethical responsibility was lacking.

“The accused is guilty of exploiting his official position as a minister from December 18, 2013, to March 23, 2015, to gain financial benefits for another person, causing damage to the budget of Canton 10 in the total amount of 23,058 KM”, states the verdict of the Livno Cantonal Court.

It is emphasized that Topić was aware of his actions and intentionally committed them by concluding service contracts with Dr S.R., through which 1,400 KM per month (plus taxes) was paid to him for 15 months for work that was not done.

Specifically, the disputed contracts stipulated that S.R. would conduct an analysis of the health sector and other tasks for the Ministry of Labor, Health, Social Welfare, and Displaced Persons, which he did not complete.

As the contractor, Topić was responsible for reviewing and accepting the work, and at the end of each month, he was to pay S.R. the agreed-upon amount. For 15 months, he regularly signed payment orders, even though he did not receive any documents from S.R. regarding the completed work, and the job was not done.

From the documents reviewed by our journalists, it is evident that the criminal proceedings against Topić lasted for more than three years. In the first instance, the Municipal Court in Livno acquitted him of charges in November 2018. However, the Livno Cantonal Court overturned the acquittal and ordered a new trial. In the second instance, Topić was declared guilty on June 14, 2021, and sentenced to a suspended sentence.

“The verdict became final on October 14, 2021. Both the cantonal prosecutor and the accused Dragoslav Topić filed an appeal. The Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina rejected the appeals, confirming the verdict of the Livno Cantonal Court”, replied the acting president of the Livno Cantonal Court, Ozrenka Vidačak.

The verdict notes that in determining the sentence, the court considered as mitigating circumstances the fact that Topić had not been previously convicted, his respectful behaviour towards the court, and the passage of time since the commission of the criminal offence. No aggravating circumstances were found.

“The court believes that with this type and level of punishment, both the general and special purposes of punishment will be achieved”, the verdict states. The court obligated Topić to pay the costs of the proceedings, while the request of Canton 10 for compensation of damages in the amount of 23,000 KM was referred to a civil lawsuit.

In the meantime, Topić moved from the ministerial position to his current role as the director of the Student Center “Nikola Tesla” in Banja Luka and an SNSD council member in the Banja Luka City Assembly. Additionally, in December 2022, he was appointed as a member of the management board of the Football Club “Borac”. From an earlier period in his biography, he holds the position of advisor to the general director of the “Lutrija RS” lottery.

He performed all of these mentioned functions as a member of the largest party in Republika Srpska, led by Milorad Dodik. The final verdict for the abuse of an official position evidently did not hinder him from maintaining trust, as he significantly increased the number of functions he held after the verdict.

Smiljana Moravac Babić (Photo: Aleksandar Čavić/City of Banja Luka)

Councillor of the PDP in the Banja Luka City Assembly, Smiljana Moravac Babić, stated for our portal that she is not surprised that nothing is known about this verdict. She emphasizes that one of the main characteristics of the SNSD government is cover-up.

“It’s obvious that everything has been covered up. It’s not the first time it’s done when it comes to the SNSD. The powerful can do anything, including that. The party to which Topić belongs has allowed him to sweep it under the rug. He’s not the only one. He is one of many. How is it possible for him to be the director of the Student Center despite this verdict? If the law allows it, morality should not”, Moravac Babić highlighted for eTrafika.

Damjan Ožegović (Photo: TI BiH)

Damjan Ožegović, a senior researcher and legal affairs associate at “Transparency International” Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated for our portal that unfortunately, such verdicts are not a hindrance to holding any function in Republika Srpska.

“The electoral law is clear, stating that such verdicts are not grounds for revoking a mandate. The same applies to the other position Topić holds. It might potentially come up as a remark during a competition or employment process, but nobody takes that into account. Inter-entity data exchange is at a very low level. We cannot even speak of moral ‘sanctions’ until the law changes”, Ožegović said for eTrafika.

Topić did not respond to our calls or messages in which we asked specific questions, so we are deprived of his side of the story.

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