May 16, 2018 / 12:51 PM / 10 months ago

Bosnian tycoon-turned-politician cleared of corruption charges

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A Bosnian tycoon who leads a party in the ruling coalition was cleared on Wednesday of charges of organizing a criminal group and interfering in a high-profile court case in Kosovo against Balkan drug boss Naser Kelmendi.

Fahrudin Radoncic, a former owner of Bosnia’s largest newspaper, Dnevni Avaz, and leader of the Union for a Better Future (SBB) party, had said the process launched against him in 2016 was “politically fabricated”.

Radoncic had been accused of organizing and leading a four-member group including two other SBB officials who were thought to be involved in corruption, intimidating witnesses in the Kelmendi case and other offences.

All four were cleared of charges of interfering in the drug trial of Kelmendi, a Kosovo-born ethnic Albanian with Bosnian citizenship.

A Kosovo court in February jailed Kelmendi for six years for trafficking drugs but cleared him of murder, organized crime and other charges. [L8N1PR5B0]

“All the theses of the prosecution were based on assumptions, without clear evidence,” said Hasija Masovic, the chairman of the court council. She added that the prosecutors had failed even to clearly state what the actual offences were.

“The evidence provided by the prosecution does not show that the defendants had associated for the purpose of perpetrating criminal offences such as obstruction of justice and giving and receiving gifts for trading in influence,” Masovic said.

Radoncic, whose party will compete with the largest Bosniak party Democratic Action (SDA) for Muslim Bosniak votes in an October general election, said again that all defendants were “the victims of a family fabricated indictment”.

He was referring to alleged family ties between some SDA officials and the prosecutors.

“We have stated from the beginning that we were innocent,” Radoncic told reporters. “I am so glad that a fair court process has shown there was not a single (piece of) evidence or legal reason for us to be tried, except for the wish to politically eliminate us.”

The prosecutors are free to appeal the verdict.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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