CN: this article contains brief discussion of sexual exploitation
As another scandal strikes Serbian politics, this time it is former mayor and sitting member of the National Assembly, Dragan Marković, whose name is on everyone’s lips for all the wrong reasons. The MP and city council president of Jagodina now faces a formal investigation into allegations of pimping women and girls at his private parties.
“Let’s go take the lie detector test. The three of them – Đilas, Tepić, their witnesses and me, being the fourth.” These were the words uttered by Dragan Marković (also known as “Palma”), long-time ally of President Vučić and leader of the conservative United Serbia party, after he was accused by Marinika Tepić (Vice President of the Freedom and Justice Party) of pimping women and girls at his private events. Tepić claims new witnesses continue to contact her on a daily basis.
Tepić presented her accusations during a press conference more than a week ago. She stated that pimping women had become the “everyday life in Palma’s private city”. The Freedom and Justice Party VP broadcasted a video of one witness, whose identity was concealed. In the video, the witness claims Marković would organise dubious parties for business and political partners, which were attended by girls as young as 15.
Following the allegations, the prosecutor’s office in Jagodina (whose city council Marković presides over) announced a formal investigation into the case. The case has now been taken over by the prosecutor’s office in Kraljevo, to prevent a conflict of interest from obstructing justice.
In the meantime, Tepić gave her statement to the police, and Marković appeared before the prosecutor’s office, where he denied everything.
Things took another twist when Mića Jovanović, businessman and founder of Megatrend University, added his voice to the chorus of accusations, admitting he had attended Marković’s parties. Only a day later, he withdrew his statement, apologising to Palma.
Mixed ministerial reactions
Reactions from senior members of government have been mixed to say the least. President Vučić, an old ally of Marković, told reporters that “It would be scary if this is true, but even scarier if it turns out not to be”.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabić emphasised the seriousness of the allegations, whilst reiterating that she had previously been invited by Marković to a ‘bunga-bunga’ party.
Back in 2017, Brnabić gave a New Year’s interview to Kurir, in which she first spoke about having received an invitation to a ‘bunga-bunga’ party after entering Vučić’s government.
“He invited me to participate in his bunga-bunga parties. At these bunga-bunga parties, we have fun, we sing, men and women can kiss, women and women can kiss, but men and men can’t, he said”, according to Brnabić, who became Serbia’s first woman and first openly gay Prime Minister in 2017.
As regards the rest of Vučić’s government, the response has been equally ambiguous. Minister of Human Rights and Dialogue, Gordana Čomić, refused to comment on the case, while Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality, Zorana Mihajlović, remarked that “it is shameful and terrible if Marinika Tepić knew about cases of abuse of girls, and was silent about it.”
Despite the ongoing investigation, Palma is yet to be detained, which, Tepić points out, places witnesses in danger.
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