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There Are No Coincidences: These Are the Judges Who Played an Important Role in the Release of Convicts in the Balkan Warrior Case

The news that the Supreme Court released the convicts in the Balkan Warrior case because the evidence in the case was supposedly obtained illegally, has caused quite a stir in Slovenia. Namely, those involved in the Balkan Warrior case traded in cocaine and organised the transport of this drug from South America. The drugs were then also smuggled into Slovenia and then Italy, and in addition, they were allegedly linked to the Serbian drug lord Darko Šarić. Several countries took part in the operation in which the criminals were arrested. In Italy, those arrested were sentenced to long prison terms and confiscation of property acquired through crime, while the story in Slovenia is completely different. You can read more about which judges are responsible for this and what their unusual connections with other judgments are in the article below.

Peter Jančič, the editor-in-chief of the Siol web portal, wrote in a recent column that it was the senate of the Supreme Court judges, chaired by judge Branko Masleša, that decided on the demands of the “Balkan warriors” for the protection of legality. The other members of the Senate were Mitja Kozamernik, who was the rapporteur, Kristina Ožbolt, Barbara Zobec, and Marjana Lubinič. Kozamernik has had a lot of work to do in recent years at the War Crimes Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that is probably why he eventually got help for his workload from the Trbovlje District Court judge Saša Kmet. However, this is not standard practice in our judicial system.

 According to Jančič’s article, Saša Kmet, played an important role in the release of Dragan Tošić. According to the 2018 ruling, Tošić was supposed to serve 15 years in prison. In this case, the request for the protection of legality was first assigned to David Špernjak, who is employed at the Supreme Court. However, no decisions were made until October of this year, when the District Court judge from Trbovlje, Saša Kmet was appointed to the Supreme Court, and in less than two months, he had prepared the decisions for the senate session. Apparently, he worked quite hard on this, as he “got through” around 40 thousand pages in just two months. Some have said that he was in a hurry because of the upcoming elections. However, no such change or assignment of work to a District Court judge has ever happened before at the Supreme Court.

Suspicious connections between judges
Siol also reports on the unusual connection between Špernjak and Kmet and the suspiciously elected Supreme Court judge Primož Gorkič. Namely, Gorkič did not have a single day of judicial experience before being elected the Supreme Court judge, but a decade ago, he helped rescue Tošić from prison with an expert opinion prepared for the Čeferin Law Firm, which stated that evidence against the Balkan cocaine warriors was obtained illegally.

Things were very different abroad – but in Slovenia, Tošić got two million euros of the confiscated property back
In Italy, Serbia and Uruguay, members of the same drug trafficking group, including Slovenian citizens, were arrested and then stayed behind bars. Darko Šarić’s property in Serbia was confiscated, namely, the property he acquired through crime – from villas, apartments, bars, companies to hotels and cars. Property of illegal origin, amounting to more than two million euros, was also confiscated from Tošić in Slovenia, but it has already been returned to him because the Constitutional Court annulled the Confiscation of Assets of Illicit Origin Act. In addition, Tošić was also released from prison. The last thing we need now is for Tošić to claim the loss of earnings for the time when he was imprisoned, which prevented the members of the network from trading in drugs, as the loss of earnings in this “business” is measured in millions, or in even higher numbers.

Unusual connections
Judge Špernjak, who helped prepare the decision, was also one of the people ruling in the Trenta affair, in which the current Prime Minister Janez Janša’s lawyer Franci Matoz protested, because the President of the Court, Marjan Pogačnik, suddenly decided to add the judge in question to an already-formed panel of judges who would decide on Janša’s appeal in the Trenta case. In addition, Pogačnik also assigned the case to a specialised department, although at that stage of the investigation, this was just a “regular” case. Matoz was surprised by Špernjak’s sudden inclusion in the senate for a specialised case, meaning for a more complex form of organised crime or terrorism, because he was a newly-elected judge, who did not have the specialised knowledge and experience to participate in such cases, Siol reports.

And as we have also previously reported, David Špernjak received his master’s degree under the mentorship of judge Primož Gorkič, who was an advocate of the conviction in the Patria case. Gorkič later criticised the Constitutional Court for overturning all judgments. And in the past, Kmet was Gorkič’s co-worker at the Institute of Criminology of the Ljubljana Faculty of Law. He was elected to the position of District Court judge in Trbovlje four years ago, and before that, he was one of the signatories of the protest against media disqualifications of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption under the leadership of Goran Klemenčič, which was signed by researchers and associates of the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, Ljubo Bavcon, Dragan Petrovec, Renata Salecl, and Katja Šugman Stubbs.

Gorkič is a fighter for the Balkan warrior Tošić
Years ago, Gorkič prepared a legal opinion for the Čeferin Law Firm, stating that the evidence against the “Balkan warrior” Dragan Tošić in Slovenia and other countries was obtained illegally because the police did not have the appropriate court orders to obtain it. Following this expert opinion, the court acquitted those who were convicted at the first instance court. However, Gorkič’s opinion turned out to not be valid then, but now it obviously is, as the Supreme Court has annulled the whole judgment once again. And Gorkič only became the Supreme Court judge because of the MPs of Luka Mesec’s Levica (the Left) party, who voted for him the second time, as they did not support him the first time.

Judge Marjutka Paškulin, released Čordić, is also involved
When Tošić was arrested in 2010, the investigating judge Marjutka Paškulin rejected the request to extradite Tošić to Italy. He was tried in Slovenia and acquitted in the first instance court, also because of Gorkič’s legal opinion on the illegally obtained evidence. It should be pointed out that Paškulin recently also refused to detain the protesting activist Zlatan Čordić when he was detained by the police for inciting violent protests.

Sara Kovač

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