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Serbian court opens retrial of fugitive ex-SBU official

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 19, 2024 8:34 AM 2 min read
Ex-SBU general Andrii Naumov in Serbian detention.
Ex-SBU general Andrii Naumov in Serbian detention. Photo published on Sept. 29, 2023. (Dejan Stankovic / Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
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The High Court in the Serbian city of Nis started a retrial on March 18 of the case of former Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) official Andrii Naumov on suspicion of money laundering, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

The former head of the SBU's internal security department was detained in Serbia in 2022 after fleeing Ukraine. The High Court of Nis convicted Naumov of money laundering in September 2023, sentencing him to one year in prison, but a court of appeals overturned the ruling on Feb. 14.

Naumov pleaded not guilty to the charges raised against him, but his lawyers confirmed that at the time of his detention, the ex-SBU official was carrying cash in a larger amount than permitted while crossing the border.

The suspect's defense said that such an act classifies as a mere misdemeanor rather than a crime.

Naumov reportedly left Ukraine on Feb. 23, 2022, mere hours before the start of the all-out war. He used several vans loaded with cash and jewels to leave the country, which went to Germany and later Serbia, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

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Following his departure, Ukrainian authorities labeled him a traitor, launched several criminal cases against him on the charges of abuse of power and fraud, stripped him of his rank, and placed him on the wanted list.

Naumov was detained on the border between Serbia and North Macedonia on June 7, 2022, reportedly carrying undeclared cash amounting to around 600,000 euros ($652,000), $120,000, and two emeralds. He was released from custody in December 2023.

During the retrial, the prosecution presented new evidence that a document, which supposedly proved that a significant portion of the cash was Naumov's father's loan from a business partner, was falsified. The defense objected to the inclusion of the evidence and claimed that the proceedings were based on "political persecution of Naumov by the Ukrainian state," RFE/RL reported.

A new hearing is scheduled for April 19.

Serbian authorities have repeatedly rejected Ukraine's request to extradite the former SBU official. The Serbian court pointed to the fact that Naumov was called a "traitor" by the Ukrainian state and that the ex-official claims that he "fears for his life if he returns."

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