New arrests in Serbia due to the theft of wheat from commodity reserves, which was stored with private individuals

THEFT of state commodity reserves does not stop. Only on Friday, three private warehouses, which store goods of the Directorate of Commodity Reserves, were arrested on suspicion of stealing and reselling wheat and flour. Thus, they damaged the state for more than 300 million dinars. Before that, three people ended up behind bars in last week’s police action, which caused damage of 816 million dinars in a similar way.

WAREHOUSERS STOLE THE STATE: New arrests in Serbia for stealing wheat from commodity reserves, which was kept by private individuals

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These thefts occur at a time when our country is struggling to provide enough food supplies due to the global crisis, as well as to keep the price of basic foodstuffs under control. The Ministry of Trade says that there are no fears that this abuse could cause any disturbance on the domestic market.

The state secretary in that ministry, Uros Kandic, says that a total of seven private individuals who have been storing goods have been arrested in recent days, and that two warehouses were completely empty, and five were partially empty. According to him, the final damage will be determined when the investigation is completed.

– Warehouses must have the quantities of goods that they have committed to keep at all times – Kandic explains. – They are allowed to sell wheat and corn, but only when they take a new one can they sell the old one. However, they did so in March and left the warehouses empty until the new harvest, until July. And that at a time when every grain of wheat is worth its weight in gold and when the state strives to provide the cheapest bread.

It is a pity, as he states, that “alavi” individuals have tarnished honest warehouse workers, who do their job professionally, and that is the vast majority. According to him, there are no fears that this theft could lead to any disruption in the supply of the market or shortages.

– Transitional reserves, which means the total amount of wheat in Serbia, which includes those owned by private companies, amount to one million tons of wheat and the same amount of corn – says Kandic. – It covers annual consumption, just to do nothing. This year, good yields of both of these cereals are expected, so there is no fear that anything will be missing.

The Republic Directorate for Commodity Reserves says that most of the contracts they conclude, especially since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, are strictly confidential, so that according to the Law on Data Secrecy, they are not able to talk about the quantities that exist.

– Currently, the control is in progress, and the previous one was done in the presence of the Ministry of the Interior a month ago – says Zorica Andjelković, director of the Republic Directorate for Commodity Reserves. – Regular control of wheat and corn stocks was done in November and December. Unfortunately, no matter how much we control, we cannot always influence some companies that are ready to steal the goods they keep. We are all working to keep this to a minimum in order to preserve state goods. Stricter sanctions should be applied against them.

According to Andjelković, most of them, with whom a shortage has now been registered, are reimbursing the goods. However, there will be those who will not be able to do that. That is why they will insist on stricter punishments.

– Only when the control is completed, we will have the exact quantities, which will be registered as a shortage, and we will publish those data – Andjelković concluded. – We regularly control the state of stocks of goods through control houses, which are accredited. The selected houses exclusively control the quantity of goods in silos and warehouses, and not on paper. In addition to accredited houses, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior are also working on the control. No shortage was found in any state warehouse.

Agroeconomist Milan Prostran estimates that the theft of commodity reserves is an attack on the state and that it should be severely punished. He pointed out that he does not remember such high prices of cereals on world stock exchanges, and added that Serbia has enough food and that there is no room for concern in that regard.

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, recently spoke about the detected thefts in private warehouses and announced that the state one would also be checked. He pointed out that everything will be compensated and that all those who stole in a brutal way will go to prison, thinking that no one will check them.

– And, you know how they work, they set a double bottom for our goods, for grain – Vučić explained at the time. – They put double bars on you to think it’s down, and it’s gone. They didn’t think that anyone would check if there was grain or not.

ABUSE HAS HAPPENED BEFORE

THIS is not the first case of misuse of wheat and corn from commodity reserves, and double bottoming has long been a common practice. At the end of 2013, the action of arrest for embezzlement with grain started, after the inspections of the police and the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime, which lasted for half a year.

It was then established that a large quantity of products was missing and that great damage was inflicted on the state. The arrests continued the following year. Out of 77 authorized warehouses, 18 had a shortage of 50,000 tons of wheat and 30,000 tons of corn. As it was announced at the time, some of them took up to 10,000 euros a month from the state for the lease of the warehouse, even though they sold the goods entrusted to them for safekeeping.

FINISHED BEHIND BARS

The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced on Friday that three people were arrested due to the existence of grounds for suspicion that they abused their trust in performing economic activities and thus damaged the Republic Directorate for Commodity Reserves for about 304,465,000 dinars.

– AB (54) from one independent craft shop from the area of ​​Šabac were deprived of their liberty, S. Đ. (50) from the company “Mlin Đorđić” from the vicinity of Bogatić and Ž. Š. (60) from “Mlina Škrbić” from the area of ​​Sremska Mitrovica – states the Ministry of the Interior.

Last week, those responsible in the companies “Mlin Filipović Kata”, “Žitopromet Ruma” and “Aki komerc Blace” were arrested on suspicion of stealing and reselling wheat and corn.

INVENTORY QUANTITY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

According to the law, commodity reserves intervene in case of emergency situations, such as natural and other disasters, which can cause supply disruptions, then in the event of serious market disturbances or a state of war, Kandic explained.

The Secretary of State points out that the information on the amount of stocks for each type of goods is confidential information in order to protect the economic interests of the state. There are about 70 private warehouses. They have concluded a contract for the storage of goods with the Directorate and receive a monthly fee for that. The state has the largest silo complex in Novi Pazar and five other warehouses.

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