Serbian Top Municipal Official Implicated in Sex Scandal with Underage Girls
Higher Prosecutor’s Office in Jagodina in central Serbia told BIRN that it will examine claims that veteran MP and senior municipal official Dragan ‘Palma’ Markovic was involved in parties at which underage girls were sexually exploited.
The vice-president of the opposition Party of Freedom and Justice, Marinika Tepic claimed at a press conference on Monday that “the procurement of women and girls [for sex] is an everyday thing in Jagodina, where Dragan Markovic ‘Palma’ rules”.
Markovic, the president of the Jagodina Assembly, denied the accusation, claiming that Tepic is lying.
At Monday’s press conference, Tepic played a video of a man, with his face hidden and voice altered, claiming that he worked in a hotel in Koncarevo, a small village near Jagodina, where parties were held and “girls were brought by taxi from Belgrade”.
“The people who came with him [Markovic] were his coalition and business partners. It was known that after such parties, those girls go with him or with them,” the anonymous man claimed.
Markovic claimed in a Facebook post that he knows the man is a member of the Party of Freedom and Justice.
Tepic spoke about the sexual exploitation and abuse of women in Jagodina for the first time on TV Nova S’s ‘Utisak Nedelje’ (‘Impression of the Week’) programme on April 13. Markovic also denied these claims.
Markovic has been a constant presence in Serbian politics since the beginning of the 1990s. He was an official of the Party of Serbian Unity, led by notorious paramilitary leader Zeljko ‘Arkan’ Raznatovic, until 2004, when he formed United Serbia, his own party.
As well as being president of the Jagodina assembly, Markovic is MP in National Assembly.
His party is not very powerful outside of Jagodina, but it is in a coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia, the junior partner in ruling coalitions since 2008, which makes it part of the country’s governing majority.
Serbian NGO ASTRA, which works to combat human trafficking, has called on potential victims of the alleged incidents to call an emergency telephone number to get information about their rights, as well as support and assistance.
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