Ribnik: “Clearcutting of Forests” – Naked Criminality in “Šume”

Ribnik: “Clearcutting of Forests” – Naked Criminality in “Šume”

Photo: Municipality of Ribnik/Impuls Violating the law and other regulations on forest protection, the forestry management "Ribnik"

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Photo: Municipality of Ribnik/Impuls

Violating the law and other regulations on forest protection, the forestry management “Ribnik” committed a true ecocide of forest resources in the area of this municipality through clearcutting on an area larger than ten hectares. For this job, the company “Šiling” was engaged in a suspicious procedure via public procurement, whose owner is Dušan Barjaktarević, a municipal councillor of the ruling SNSD.

Barjaktarević’s company was also the only bidder in this tender, which was recognized as a “common practice” of this forestry management.

All of this is stated in the criminal report filed against the responsible individuals due to the mentioned actions, which were confirmed to us by the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“The Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office, branch office in Mrkonjić Grad, on January 10, 2024, received a criminal report from the submitter Milanović Sergej against the responsible individuals of the Forestry Management ‘Ribnik,’ regarding an event that occurred between September and December 2023. In the mentioned case, the Mrkonjić Grad Police Department requested verification of the allegations in the submitted report. The case is under investigation, and the allegations are being verified”, the prosecution’s response states.

 

Money Transfer for Crime

As stated in the criminal report, which we possess, from September to the end of December 2023, over ten hectares of beech forest in section 12 at the Dimitor location in the municipality of Ribnik were cut down.

The stumps were properly marked and debited, leading to the conclusion that the forest was intentionally cut down. What is not clear is how experts engaged in these activities violated all regulations regarding forest protection in this manner.

The submitter of the criminal report, Sergej Milanović, a forestry engineer, says he immediately noticed that illegal logging had taken place.

“I went to the field in January and found, to put it mildly, an ecocide. All trees, one next to the other, over a large area, were cut down. The stumps were still fresh at that time. It was evident that a mass cutting had occurred over the past few months. Each stump was marked and debited with a stamp. Therefore, everything happened under control and by order, that is, officially, of the forestry management workers. That is, the engineering designer intentionally carried out this logging. Then I determined the compartment boundary, and checked if it was indeed a state compartment. I have never found a compartment so extensively cut down in one place, resulting in clearcutting on perhaps even 60 hectares”, says Milanović for Impuls.

He emphasizes that the forest was cut down by marking the timber to cut trees next to each other, meaning one part of the compartment was completely cut down, while the other was not treated at all.

krivicna ribnik

Criminal report

However, the regulations are very clear: When it comes to forest complexes, any area over 500 square meters of cleared land is considered clearcutting and is deemed to be forest devastation.

Article 7 of the Law on Forests of Republika Srpska defines forests as “areas covered with forest species and trees, with an area of ​​over 1600 square meters”. In the same law, Article 8 expressly states what constitutes forest devastation.

“Forest devastation is any action contrary to regulations that weakens the fertility (yield strength) of forest land, thereby endangering or preventing the sustainability of forest production or forest cultivation on that land, or threatening the survival of forests and their general beneficial functions (extensive logging approaching forest clearing, excessive selective logging, tree whitening, any action that may cause weed growth, soil erosion and removal by water, wind, and other means)”.

The manner in which the forest was cut down in Ribnik, with logging concentrated in one place, constitutes clearing and forest devastation, and according to the Criminal Code of Republika Srpska, it is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment from six months to three years.

According to our information, internal control went to the field, but without the presence of police and state inspectors.

Regarding this case, we sent a letter to the Forestry Management “Ribnik”. They replied that they are not a legal entity and that concerning this case, we should contact the “Šume” of Republika Srpska.

ribnik odgovor

We also contacted the “Šume” of Republika Srpska, but we have not received a response.

Who (Won’t) Be Held Accountable?

While this part of the forest has been irreversibly destroyed, the question remains of who is responsible for this ecocide and who will bear the consequences.

Given that the stumps were officially marked, the worker who marked the trees should bear disciplinary responsibility, which entails criminal liability.

However, experts employed in the forestry sector (names known to the editorial staff) state that this is not the fault of just one individual. By official duty, the engineering designer who marked the trees for felling is responsible, but in addition to him, those responsible also include the recipients, the manager who should oversee the execution of the work, as well as all those who performed these tasks, as the contractor must have a forestry engineer to supervise it.

As stated in the criminal report, the marking for logging was carried out by Neđo Galić, who is employed in the Forestry Management “Ribnik”, and the logging was carried out by the company “Šiling” d.o.o. from Ribnik.

Galić is known to the public for being accused, during his tenure as director of the forestry management “Oštrelj-Drinić”, of criminal offences of abuse of official position or authority in conjunction with the extended criminal offence of forgery or destruction of business or commercial books or documents. He was accused of awarding himself a bonus of 11,300 KM.

Tender for Ecocide

In July of last year, the Forestry Management “Ribnik” issued a tender for public procurement “services in forestry”. The public procurement was divided into two lots, and in both cases, the offer submitted by the company “Šiling” was selected.

The subject of the procurement was “services in forestry for the needs of the Forestry Management ‘Ribnik,'” and for the first lot (which pertains to the disputed clear-cutting of the forest in Ribnik), the estimated total contract value was 109,928.23 KM without VAT.

Since there was no competition, the offer from “Šiling”, which was only 99.50 KM lower than the estimated value, was accepted as the “most favourable”.

However, the offer from this company for the second lot of this public procurement was “a whole” 0.03 KM (3 pfennigs) lower than the total estimated contract value, which was 212,557.23 KM without VAT.

Once again, there was no competition. This isn’t much of a surprise considering that the tender conditions required potential bidders to have completed at least one contract worth at least 109,000 KM without VAT in the last three years if they submit an offer for one lot, or multiple contracts whose total value is not less than the estimated value of the procurement if they are interested in all lots.

Although such conditions are not in violation of the Law on Public Procurement, they are certainly exclusionary for potential competition, considering that “Šiling” has obtained conditions that competitors do not have through tenders won from the Forestry Management “Ribnik”. Of course, the political influence of the owner of this company in Ribnik, our sources claim, is not negligible.

It is also noteworthy that the Forestry Management “Ribnik” is the second most indebted management within the already heavily indebted Public Enterprise “Šume Srpske” The management, which employs over 300 workers, including about 30 engineers, ended last year with over 961 thousand KM in debt. Clearly, the illegal devastation of forests, which causes million-dollar damages, is not within their area of ​​interest.

infografika ENG ribnik

(Impuls)