CEAS press release - TV Nova's allegations about the list of subjects of investigation of the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

Regarding the allegations of NOVA TV (Newsmax Adria), reported by Danas, N1 and NSPM, we issue a following statement:

There is only one registered citizens' association under the name of "Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies" in the Business Registers Agency (APR), whose legal representative is Jelena Milić. The registration number of the association is 17700189.

There is no registered association of citizens CEAS JELENA MILIĆ in APR, as it’s incorrectly stated on the list, therefore it cannot have a redacted registration number.

CEAS emphasizes that terms such as: association of citizens, non-governmental organizations, journalists or the opposition do not in themselves contain the value determinants such as good vs. bad or a priori innocent. Like any other legal entity or individual, they can be perpetrators of crimes, regardless where and for whom they work.

If the said investigation of the Administration is conducted according to the regulations of the Republic of Serbia (RS), CEAS as a legal entity and Jelena Milić as a natural person welcome it, and we do not believe that it should not be carried out simply due to the fact that some other suspects avoided punishment, as interlocutors from certain entities on the list assert in the above-mentioned media. Additionally, if implemented in accordance with the law, we do not consider this an undue pressure on our work.

CEAS particularly wishes to remind of the findings of relevant international bodies: "NGOs are also considered potential risk in the context of money laundering as a front for terrorist organizations in rising and transferring of funds, or as legitimate companies that indirectly support the goals of terrorist organizations."

Based on CEAS understanding, this, otherwise very diverse, list is not complete, so it is not clear on what grounds the interlocutors of the said media drew conclusions about the correlation of the entities on the list with their public statements and actions, or how the incomplete list can be considered a pressure on certain organizations.

Having in mind the number of foreigners observed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at the violent protests in Belgrade, CEAS believes that this also may constitute a justified reason for the measures taken by the Administration.

It seems to CEAS that publishing this incorrect list has nothing to do with opening the topic of working conditions of Serbian citizens' associations, which often find themselves the target of improper and dangerous disqualifications, like the ones made against CEAS lately by Nebojša Čović, president of the Red Star basketball club and former Deputy Prime Minister of RS, on national frequency television station PINK.

When it comes to CEAS, the said media practically never address neither these, nor a whole series of similar threats and misogynistic insults coming from the then MPs, or lies that the Russian ambassador to Serbia spreads about us. It is indicative that the same media have very rarely reported on CEAS work in the last three years, even when it comes to internationally relevant events.

CEAS points out that it is precisely such threats, lists and tendentious inaccurate reporting about us that represent the undue pressure on our work, as evidenced by the numerous lawsuits we are conducting, despite the fact that they are draining our resources both in terms of finances and time.

Regrettably, it seems to us that this is an unprofessional and irresponsible attempt to mobilize and homogenize forces around individuals from the supposedly democratic and endangered opposition, who are at the same time: heading political organizations, acting as private consultants, or officials of legal entities formally registered as citizens' associations who, as we suspect, promote other than public interests, under the guise of advocating for democratization and freedom of the Serbian media, or related persons who may not respect separation of commercial from non-profit.

CEAS has never, nor ever will, participate in such activities.

CEAS is particularly concerned that relevant international actors such as Tanja Fajon, chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee, are once again jumping to conclusions about Serbia of the 2020, without being aware of all relevant circumstances. We hope that this is just a matter of haste and not tendentiousness.

Belgrade, 28 July 2020