Original article (in Serbian) was published on 06/12/2021
After four former members of the State Security were sentenced to 100 years in prison last week for the murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, the tabloids “told” the story about the “mysterious bag” with 415,000 dollars that Curuvija allegedly carried at the time of the murder. The only one who mentioned this money during the trial was Svedok’s former journalist Vladan Dinic, who claimed that he met Curuvija on the day of the murder and that he was carrying a bag full of money while was walking around the city. During the procedure, Dinic’s statement was used by the defense to arouse the suspicion of the court panel that someone killed Curuvija because of that money, and that the murder has nothing to do with the state.
The story of the “mysterious bag” is not new and could already be heard at the trial, but tabloids recycled it in a sensationalist manner a few days after the Belgrade High Court ruled last week that the murder was carried out by State Security on the orders of Milosevic’s government.
“It is nowhere to be found, and no one mentions it! The mystery of the SLAVKO CURUVIJA’s bag, which contained $ 415,000! HE WAS CARRYING IT AT THE MOMENT OF THE MURDER!”, claim Republika, the website of Serbian Telegraph, and Srbijadanas.com, while Alo and Kurir have similar titles.
After the verdict was announced on Thursday, December 2, defense lawyer Zora Dobricanin Nikodinovic, who represents two former State Security workers Milan Radonjic and Ratko Romic, also mentioned this money.
“The court undoubtedly determined the takeover of financial aid by the late Slavko Curuvija. (…) It is clear that the killers were not in the courtroom today, and they are neither in the indictment nor in the verdict”, stated Dobricanin Nikodinovic.
The mystery of the black bag
Judge Snezana Jovanovic did not mention the black bag with 415,000 euros that Curuvija allegedly carried, and the tabloids themselves state that there is no word about it in the verdict passed in the previous procedure.
The only witness who mentioned this during the proceedings was Vladan Dinic, who at the time was a journalist for the newspaper called Svedok.
He told the court in 2017 that on April 11, 1999, he met this journalist a few hours before he was executed. Curuvija allegedly had a bag with him, which he showed him, saying that he had $ 415,000 in it, with which he would pay the back wages to his former journalists.
“He was in trouble at the time, his newspaper was confiscated, he printed it in Montenegro, a lot of people left the Daily Telegraph and got a job someplace else, and some of them joined Svedok. That day, Curuvija told me to tell those journalists to come to his place tonight at 6 pm to pay them the six salaries he owes them”, Dinic said at the trial in 2017.
He also stated that soon after the murder, he came to the house where Curuvija was killed, but he did not find this bag, nor did he know what happened to it.
After Dinic’s testimony in 2017, for which there is no other evidence to confirm it, Zora Dobricanin Nikodinovic pointed out that this testimony was important and that “no one has ever checked” it.
She repeated the same when giving her closing remarks in October this year.
“Is it possible that no one followed the trail of money”, the lawyer said at the time, as Slavko Curuvija Foundation reports. On that occasion, this site writes, she listed the evidence and witnesses that point to, in her opinion, the real killer – the then criminal Luka Pejovic.
Pejovic, by the way, is the man who was recognized by Curuvija’s partner and the only eyewitness to the murder, Branka Prpa, as the person who resembles the killer from the doorway. Her testimony was one of the main arguments of the defense that Kurak and Romic were not behind the murder, who, according to the indictment, carried out the murder.
He received money to print a newspaper, but there is no evidence for the story about the bag
It is no secret that Curuvija received money from Western embassies for printing newspapers and repaying debts at a time when he was facing great pressure – his equipment was confiscated, and the editorial office was closed. The censorship of his newspaper was made possible by the Law on Public Information, passed in October 1998, when Aleksandar Vucic was the Minister of Information. This law enabled draconian punishment of the media by the quick court decisions – the newsrooms were closed because they did not have the money to pay high fines.
According to the indictment, Branka Prpa said back in 1999 that Curuvija had received a $ 150,000 tranche of aid from the US Congress a few months before the murder, for printing newspapers in printing houses located in Montenegro and Croatia, because Serbia had forbidden it.
Predrag Gikic, among others, confirmed that Curuvija cooperated with foreigners. He was a State Security employee who eavesdropped on Curuvija, and whose notes, according to the SCF website, largely made up his file.
Gikic’s task was to eavesdrop on recorded telephone conversations and record “security-interesting information”. He wrote the last note in February 1999, two months before the murder, while listening to Curuvija’s conversation with the attaché of the American embassy, Douglas Davidson. He learned from the conversation that the money should be handed over – 40,000 dollars, which the embassy approved to Curuvija.
The handover took place in Curuvija’s apartment, as he said, after which the conversations were no longer attractive, i.e., there were no more “security interesting information”, so Gikic stopped eavesdropping in mid-March.
The indictment mentions a bag with 415,000 dollars only through Dinic’s testimony. It was not found on the spot, and such information is not mentioned in the diaries of the State Security, whose workers followed Curuvija on the day of the murder when he allegedly carried the bag with him around the city.