Should Serbia's BIA be closed?
UPDATE 18 March 2023
BIA Director Aleksandar Vulin resigned in the early hours of this morning. See:
Since certain western governments started funding Serbia's internal security agency, the BIA, and providing it with access to Signals intelligence, the standards of the BIA have fallen dramatically. Here we set out some of the purposes and activities they have been undertaking recently, and we call for western interests to abolish the BIA which they can do by instructing Serbian President Alexander Vucic to do so. That is because they have so much leverage over Vucic by reason of their contributions to his government's budget.
Indeed we maintain that it should be made a condition of further international financing of Serbia's government institutions in any capacity that the BIA be abolished and rolled into the Serbian Police, an altogether more effective and respected institution that does not use communist era harassment techniques against its victims.
Here are some examples of the BIA's recent conduct.
They seem not to devote any of their considerable budget (in excess of EUR60m) in pursuit of standard security service activities such as combatting serious organised crime, fighting drug dealing, fighting the trafficking in women, and terrorism, at all.
Instead all they do, with an official staff of over 2,000 virtually all of whom should be dismissed for gross misconduct, is go around listening in on private citizens' ordinary communications, harassing them, threatening then, forcing them to work as unpaid agents by threatening the revelation of Kompromat, including coercing women into having sex with people they would not otherwise wish to have sex with, under pain of threats of revelation of sexual and other sins to family members (something that would cause scandal in Serbia's conservative society), breaking laws wantonly, extorting money out of local businesses, and being thoroughly revolting in everything they do.
They are widely feared by all sectors of society, including the greater majority of Serbian citizens who do not live off criminal activities.
They are in cahoots with Belgrade's drug dealers, providing certain venues and dealers with imagined legal protection in exchange for a share in the profits of dealing.
They routinely use Soviet-era poisonings, such as basilic dysentery or diarrhoea, to intimidate people.
They routinely break into residential and commercial premises by extorting locksmiths and other persons who may have a copy of entrance keys to provide them with the keys to do so.
Upon a break-in, they may move furniture or personal possessions around obviously to disconcert the resident; or they may even steal items of value to be sold on later such as medicines (we are aware of several reports of this kind).
They engage in routine 'reverse plumbing' in apartment blocks, causing the victim's toilet to become overloaded with excrement flushed down other toilets in the building.
They persecute Belgrade's gay community, for example by forcing gay people to have straight sex with people as honeytraps under threat of exposing them as gay (in Serbia's very conservative society this is a grave form of coercion).
They require bars and restaurants not to charge their officials or other persons associated with the BIA.
They use electronic communications to impersonate victims' friends or relatives to try to persuade victims to make hasty decisions.
They routinely pass both intelligence and western supplied Signals facilities to intelligence agencies within the government of the Russian Federation.
They maintain close professional and personal ties with the FSB, the internal security agency of the Russian Federation.
They plant illegal recreational narcotics in the homes of private people with a view to compromising them.
They ring round businesses instructing the staff to cold shoulder or rip off or refuse to serve certain customers that the BIA considers as amongst its list of people to be persecuted.
They visibly hover outside the addresses of persecuted people in black cars dressed in black, to intimidate people.
They sew malicious defamation about people, including that women have been beaten up or raped when this is not true; that certain people are consuming unlawful recreational narcotics when this is not true; that certain businesses are engaged in the supply of recreational narcotics when this is not true; that people are homosexuals when this is not true; that certain women are prostitutes when this is not true;. that certain people are alcoholics or layabouts when this is not true.
They routinely engage in extortion rackets, requiring local businesses to. mmake weekly or monthly payments to them under threat of Intimidators pressure being applied (for example filling a bar or restaurant with sinister looking people who do not pay, to deter regular customers from using those venues.
They hack Bluetooth equipment to use it as a listening device without judicial warrant. (Actually nothing they do is subject to sny sort of judicial authorisation whatsoever; everything they do is illegal; Serbian law provides no special immunities for BIA officials who are therefore simply legitimised law breakers).
They routinely propagate spam media articles to influence public opinion or to initimidate people they are persecuting. (In this programme they work in parallel with Russian intelligence institutions who prepare a lot of this Spam news.)
They persecute victims by contacting their banks and warning the banks against providing usual banking facilities such as deposits or loans.
They produce forged loan and other documentation in respect of properties, using those forged instruments to extort money inn the way of mortgage payments and other similar payments when there is in fact no underlying debt or mortgage instrument.
They coerce. private citizens into laundering drug money, in particular the cross-border European trade in cocaine, heroin and ketamine, by threatening those citizens with exposure of an embarrassing secret or by threatening them with harassment campaigns.
They actively support and are an integral part of Serbia's network of drug dealers and traffickers.
They routinely arrange for the trafficking of women for sexual purposes for foreigners in Serbia or across borders to persons in other European countries (in particular but not limited to Switzerland where this is a big problem). I've come across them doing all this stuff. They're completely out of control.
They routinely disrupt lawful mail and email so that email recipients may never receive the email that was intended for them.
They routinely interfere with the lawful operation of private CCTV systems, inter alia to facilitate the commission of crime (often by their own staff or agents).
They routinely send emails in the names of third parties, as harassment, Spam, phishing attempts or similar malware exercises. They do this in coordination with Russian government agencies doing much the same thing.
They routinely disrupt the performance of private citizens' private mobile phones so as to encourage the dissemination of disinformation or to prevent those citizens from effectively communicating.
They apparently block consular correspondence between foreign nationals and their own embassies; emails about consular matters just don't get delivered. This alone is a grave violation of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which requires unrestricted communications between a foreign national and his consular authorities.
They from time to time serve as an informal censor on Serbian media, both through intimidating phone calls and trying to block websites.
They do all of this while lacking any legal power of law enforcement, which in Serbian law is reserved to the Police and the Prosecutor's Office.
They engage in turf wars with the Serbian police, partly by selling extortion rackets that are supposed to keep the Police away from an establishment; they do not cooperate with the Serbian police in any meaningful way at all.
As a matter of practice they do not report into the President or Prime Minister and they operate outside genuine democratic oversight; they are an entirely autonomous unit of comprehensive misgovernment accountable to nobody and hence there is no means for their democratic reform as there is no means of holding them to account.
They are arguably the principal contributor to the atmosphere of paranoia and political uncertainty that pervades contemporary Serbia and so diminishes the country's democratic political development.
There can be no excuse for this litany of sins and crimes. The BIA represent Russian intelligence agency sinisterism at its worst. It has no place in modern Europe.
Obviously all western intelligence and security agencies should cease cooperating with the BIA immediately. The 'work' they engage in is more akin to the operations of a Mafia gang than a modern government agency.
Interestingly no other branches of the Serbian government cooperate with the BIA in any meaningful way. Their pronouncements on most issues of the day are simply irrelevant. They have no say in penal policy immigration policy, crime fighting resources and priorities or anything else. They do not obviously share whatever information they are acquiring on people with the Police, who use their own separate intelligence services and Signals capabilities. The BIA is mostly just ignored by all other branches of the Serbian government as a liability. There can be no stronger an argument for shutting it down than that its activities do not feed into Serbian government policy in any way whatsoever. In terms of government departmental separation of roles, it plays no function. It is literally useless.
The BIA is unsuitable for purpose and so dysfunctional that it cannot be reformed for the purposes of 21st century European standards of law enforcement. The BIA should be abolished, its staff laid off, and its proper crime fighting functions focused upon international threats (which so far it does not perform) be transferred to the Serbian Police. All the BIA's intelligence gathering Signals capabilities provided by the west should be terminated at once, particularly given that the BIA have been selling western government technology to the Russians. All western funding towards the BIA should immediately be cut pending wholesale review of the organisation's activities as perpetrators of crime, not stalwarts against it.
To the extent that it is appropriate for any government agency in Serbia to have access to western Signals facilities, those capacities should be provided exclusively to the Serbian Police.