OpEd

Follow the money

After the 11/XNUMX attack against the US, the security sector followed the flow of informal money in the world, used to finance terrorism. The attack in Banjska could expose an informal financial system of Serbia, used to hinder the full functioning of Kosovo's institutions.

1.

"It is only possible to pay in foreign currency", he wrote on an ATM of a branch of the Commercial Bank in Kosovo, last week, 15 years after the euro formally became the only means of payment in the country. This happened two weeks after the attack of the paramilitary group against Kosovo in Banjska and highlighted an obvious part of the unfinished conflict between Kosovo and Serbia, that of maintaining "parallel structures" as a way of not allowing the full state functionality of the institutions of the Republic . At the ATM in question, the "currency" (or foreign currency) is the euro, while the "local" one is the dinar, and that's all there is to know about the unfinished conflict in one view.

The view, however, has a history of its own.

In 2006, at a moment of the negotiations for the independence of Kosovo with President Ahtisaari and A. Rohan, the Kosovo delegation was faced with the dilemma regarding the financing that Serbia was doing, and wanted to continue doing, with public money in the environments where the Serbs in Kosovo were the majority. Until then, that money was identified to maintain the parallel system, from the education and health system to the parallel security system (under the name "Bridge Guards" or "Civil Defense" and similar). The first reaction came from the Kosovo delegation with the request to stop this money, as a form of stopping the parallel system. From Ahtisaari and Rohan came the reaction that such a thing had no logic: if Kosovo accepted money from donors, from Norway to the United Arab Emirates, why not receive from Serbia.

The compromise was quickly found, in the form of a special reporting channel to the Central Bank of Kosovo that the Republic of Serbia provides for the money sent for the needs of the citizens of Kosovo, and entered into the formal payment system. This solution was integrated into the Ahtisaari Package for the independence of Kosovo and as such is part of the country's legal system.

2.

Fifteen years after the declaration of Kosovo's independence on the basis of the Ahtisaari plan, this compromise solution has not been considered, and if it were not for Banjska, it would be difficult to stand out. After September 24, the circulation of goods in Jarinje was stopped, and among the prohibited goods were dinars which were handed over to a foreign insurance company (registered in Kosovo) which would later distribute the money in its own armored vehicles in the commercial Bank and in the Post offices; The Post of Serbia, namely the branches of the Postal Savings Bank of Serbia, which operate without any obstacles or legal authorization throughout the settlements with a Serbian population in Kosovo. In the assessment of non-governmental organizations of Serbs in Kosovo, 44 ​​thousand Serbian citizens in Kosovo receive pensions or salaries from the budget of Serbia, which in the current demographic situation means almost every second Kosovo Serb.

The ban on the entry of the dinar as a commodity in Jarinje clearly explained the financial dependence of citizens on this system. But it also showed that this system is illegal, it depends on the physical entry of dinars as smuggled goods: at every border of every country in the world, a larger amount of money carried in banknotes must be declared for probably 15 years this money transfer has been declared only once. Then, this amount of money cannot be put into financial circulation except as foreign currency, while it has been put into commercial banks and post offices of Serbia as local currency, creating two payment systems.

3.

Why wasn't an easier form found, as in the Ahtisaari compromise, with which Serbia in a legitimate form would continue to pay - pensions, aid and salaries, invest its public money in sports, culture or religious fields - with transparent circulation, formally recorded in the Central Bank of Kosovo and distributed in euros?

"Follow the money" is a saying used for the first time in the American film "All the President's Men", to show how if you are going to investigate corrupt connections, follow the money transfers. It is more than usable for this case. President Vučić stated several times that Serbia allocates nearly 800 million euros per year from its budget for the needs of Kosovo Serbs, and the question posed by one of the veterans of Serbia's public intellectual space, Dušan Janjić, was where did the 8.8 billion euros remain then? should have been spent on Kosovo Serbs in 11 years of SNS power?

This question cannot be answered in the Central Bank of Kosovo. But probably not even in the "parallel system". According to Rangjell Nojkić, former director of the Post of Serbia in Kosovo, the safe of the National Bank of Serbia is located in Leposavic, but the money coming from Belgrade did not even pass through this safe, it was distributed directly.

The difference between the 800 million declared by the Republic of Serbia and the money that has reached the Serbian citizens of Kosovo seems to be a sufficient reason not to follow the legal financial circulation achieved with the Ahtisaari compromise. In the absence of a clear, transparent and accountable system, a million here or tens of millions there can lose their way.

Perhaps as a contextual help, the information that in the northern part of Kosovo was not only the vault of the National Bank of Serbia, but also serious crypto-currency "mining" operations. The Kosovo authorities emphasized that these cryptocurrency farms operated in the North, because they do not pay for electricity, but perhaps a bigger motive could have been that some million or tens of millions lost from Serbia's budget could have ended up as cryptocurrency, the market of which is lost in the cybersphere.

4.

After the September 11 attack against America, the world security community took seriously an issue that had been left behind, illegal money transfer. In the case of Al Qaeda, it was quickly discovered that the hawala system, alive from the Middle Ages, by which money is passed in trust from one point to another in an informal network around the world, was the way to finance terrorism without being investigated. All this was related to the earlier concern that other anti-security actors, mainly in organized crime, would use the informal financial network to launder money earned through this activity. The UN adopted at the beginning of this century the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, deliberately signed in Palermo, Sicily, the place where the epochal battle against the Mafia took place. Article 7.2 of the Convention states: "States Parties shall consider the implementation of possible measures to detect and monitor the movement of cash and appropriate negotiable instruments across their borders, subject to safeguards to ensure their proper use of information and without hindering in any way the movement of legitimate capital. Such measures could include a requirement that individuals and businesses report the cross-border transfer of significant amounts of money and related negotiable instruments."

The paramilitary attack in Banjska should have the same wake-up effect for the Kosovo authorities. The informal system of money circulation from Serbia to Kosovo is part of a more complicated system of contesting the functioning of Kosovo's institutions, which showed its escalation with paramilitary formations ready to start an armed conflict in Kosovo.