Prosecutors in Bosnia & Herzegovina have reportedly ordered raids on the offices of Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, and a search of Dodik’s recent transactions, according to unconfirmed reports in the local media.
Dodik has been at the centre of an escalating conflict between the Republika Srpska, the smaller of Bosnia’s two entities, and the central government in Sarajevo. After the 2014 general election Bosniak and Croat parties struck a coalition deal in the national parliament, excluding Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). He has since stepped up efforts to assert the region’s independence, including by reaching out directly to both Serbia and Russia.
The Republika Srpska’s news agency SRNA reported on January 27 that state prosecutors had ordered a search of Dodik’s offices and other premises, as well as the president’s recent transactions.
Contacted by SRNA, Bosnian state prosecutors declined to comment on the reports. According to Nezavisne, Dodik’s office has also not confirmed the raids.
The news follows a search of the headquarters of Pavlovic Bank in Bijeljina by the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA). Bank official Ruzica Jankovic told local journalists that SIPA officers were looking for information on a loan extended to Dodik to buy a €750,000 villa in Belgrade in 2007.
Dodik paid in full for the villa, later saying he had bought it with a loan from Pavlovic Bank. However, the loan was found to have been extended in 2008, raising questions about the origin of the money, Bosnia Today reported.
There are rumours within the Republika Srpska that the investigation into Dodik is being stepped up to divert attention from the arrest of a senior Bosniak politician, Fahrudin Radoncic, on January 25. Radoncic is suspected of obstructing the course of justice.
Dodik is a controversial figure in Bosnia, where he has increasingly sought to break away from Sarajevo’s authority.
In July he announced plans for a referendum on the authority of the state-level judicial institutions. The referendum would challenge the authority of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Dayton agreement that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. The date was initially set for November 15, 2015, but was postponed after a court challenge.
The planned referendum provoked a strong negative international reaction since it would breach the Dayton agreement with potentially serious consequences for stability in the country.
Tensions escalated further in December, when the Republika Srpska’s government said it would end cooperation with national courts, prosecutors and SIPA following raids in the town of Novi Grad, apparently in connection to a war crimes investigation. However, the government later backed down.