New chief of Serbia’s security agency appointed

New chief of Serbia’s security agency appointed

Tomislav Radovanovic, former head of the Department of Special Investigation Methods at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has been appointed acting director of the Security and Information Agency (BIA). The top chair remained vacant after the resignation of Alexander Vulin, who stepped down on November 3.

Early this year, when Radovanovic was dismissed from his previous position in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he moved to the Information Security Agency, as chief of the tech service, where his direct boss was Aleksandar Vulin. Radovanovic spent some time in France as a police attache. He has been granted the Miloš Obilić Medal of Bravery 2nd Class and the Gold Good Officer Plaque.

Tomislav Radovanovic came into the public focus after he spoke on the air of TV Prva in the second half of 2021, stating that a parallel structure existed in the Ministry of Internal Affairs that had been wiretapping Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Then he praised Vučić and the head of BIA, Vulin, claiming that such parallel structures had been created at the time when Nebojša Stefanović was Minister of Police, and also that “the case of Jovanić (regarding Europe’s largest marijuana plantation) cannot be separated from the case of wiretapping President Vučić”. He then indicated that he was convinced that a parallel structure with clearly selected personnel and appropriate funding had been formed in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. For surveilling organized criminal groups in Belgrade and across Serbia, an intelligence network was created, with the actual goal of collecting data on President Vučić and his closest relatives. He claimed that the Jovanića case was “Plan B” for “parallel structures” within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “I cannot separate the Jovanića case from the wiretapping of the President of Serbia. As for the intercepted communications, I can say that none of them were incriminating and that there is no reason for suspicions. Since they failed to discredit the President on the first attempt, they moved to plan B and tried to link Predrag Koluvia (the owner of the organic food farm Jovanica, where a ton of marijuana was found) to the brother of the Serbian president,” said Radovanović.

According to President Vučić, when Radovanović told him that he had been wiretapped, he did not immediately believe him because he did not want to appear paranoid. “A month, two or three months ago, I saw an official report signed by Radovanović, where it was clear that some group was working on gathering intelligence on me and my family. I’d like to say that someone was doing it on someone’s orders, external factors were involved. Wherever Danilo (son of the president) went, his picture appeared in the media everywhere. Why were there no publications of his photo for the past year? So there were people who became informants for foreign intelligence. They followed him but he caught two of them and when they realized he thought they were some street thugs they got scared he wanted to physically beat them up and pulled out their police IDs. When I asked the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs about this, they said they were surveilling other individuals. I did not trust anyone and asked Radovanovic to support me with real evidence. I didn’t trust my own brother either. They did this to force me not to stick out,” Vucic said at the time.

Then the Serbian police were rocked by a scandal when the then Minister of the Interior, Nebojsa Stefanovic, was accused of spying for the U.S. The first statement about this, which became the basis for the whole case, was made by Radovanovic in a guest appearance on TV Prva.

Thus, Tomislav Radovanovic’s personal loyalty to Aleksandar Vučić was duly appreciated by the Serbian president. Now he appointed him as the acting head of the BIA, since in the pre-election period, when the government has a technical mandate by law, it is possible to appoint only an acting chief. When the elections are held and a new government is formed, if the incumbent ruling party led by Aleksandar Vucic wins the vote, then Radovanovic can become the head of BIA without the prefix “acting”. However, this is not a given. The ruling Serbian Progressive Party is counting on him, but if BIA is not able to subtly influence the election outcome, Radovanović may not retain his post. If opposition wins, he will definitely be sacked.

Tomislav Radovanović has his own “skeletons in the closet.” Radovanović is known under the alias Tom Guantanamo, because at one time he managed a fund supported by the United States, which financed a resocialization program for former prisoners of the infamous American prison based in Cuba. There were rumors that this money was allegedly wasted inefficiently.

Tomislav Radovanović was also at one time the commander of the special forces brigade at the Belgrade Ministry of Internal Affairs, being part of the closest team of Diana Hrkalovic, then the state secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Hrkalovic once saved him from dismissal when his son, who was also an MIA employee, assaulted another man. Radovanović had at his disposal plenty of recorded, that is, wiretapped conversations, which became his peculiar capital, with which at the end of 2021 he was one of the favourites to receive the position of police director. There are also suggestions that Radovanović tapped police general Slobodan Malešić in order to eliminate him as a possible rival in the competition for the post.