Bosnian politician blames his sanctions on 9-11 conspiracy

Another high-profile politician from Bosnia has been sanctioned by the US State Department, and he offered a wildly unlikely explanation for his being black-listed.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Bosnian politician blames his sanctions on 9-11 conspiracy - NewsMavens
Nikola Špirić, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Nikola Špirić, recently hit with US State Department sanctions for "engaging in and benefiting from public corruption", is a former Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers and a current member of the state parliament. He's also a member of SNSD -- the ruling party in the Bosnian entity Republika Srpska (RS), whose president was also sanctioned by the US just days before Donald Trump took office.  

The news of another high-ranking SNSD official being sanctioned by the US was a slap in the face of all of the RS government's efforts to appear well connected to the Trump's administration. This included some outright lies -- like those about Dodik's official invitation to Trump's inauguration (followed by the now infamous photo-op) -- but also serious spending on lobbying in the US. The access it provided to people from Trump's orbit such as Corey Lewandowski and Steve Bannon was widely advertised as "strenghtening ties with Trump" -- a supposed way off the sanctions list. 

Attempts to reconcile that narrative with the reality of new sanctions -- especially since it came at the very beginning of BiH's  most recent election campaign -- produced some outlandish results. First came Dodik's false claim that the sanctions were the doing of the current (and outgoing) US ambassador in Bosnia. But the real bomb came from Špirić himself, who denied his involvment in any corruption and offered this justification for the sanctions:

"I have reasons to suspect that this [action] which puts the best and most valuable of my people on some "black list" -- including, unfortunately, my children -- comes from the same base, same minds and same financiers [that paved the way] for the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, and many other terrorist activities around the world."  

This incoherent claim doesn't even make for a decent conspiracy theory, let alone a viable explanation of the sanctions. But it also flies in the face of Špirić's well known history of corruption, none of which has ever made it to trial. And it exposes, once again, the bigger -- and perhaps the biggest issue in Bosnia: the habitual comfort of office holders who engage in corrupt behaviour and feel untouchable doing it. Because they usually are.

The timeline of dropped investigations

  • After the news about sanctions broke, one local portal compiled a short overview of the accusations of corruption against Špirić that were never processed.
  • This included:
    • Hiking up the price of an official car he ordered, which increased by over 40,000 euros in just one day
    • The deposit of 400,000 euros of unknown origin on his account, explained as "profits from book sales" and used to buy an apartment in Vienna, Austria.
    • Allegations of paying salaries to people who had already left office.
    • Allegations of forging parliamentary documents then presented to the Intelligence and Security Agency (ISA) while he was a member of the parliamentary commission for ISA oversight.
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