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Bosnian regional president arrested in graft probe

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The president of Bosnia's autonomous Muslim-Croat federation and 19 others were arrested on Friday in an anti-corruption probe that also targeted the offices of the regional government, a spokesman for the state prosecutor said.

The raid on Zivko Budimir's Sarajevo office and the regional government in the southern town of Mostar is the most high-profile anti-graft operation in Bosnia since independence more than two decades ago.

"Budimir and 19 other federation officials have been arrested," spokesman Boris Grubesic told Reuters by telephone. "The group will be handed over to the prosecutor who will decide on further proceedings," he added.

But police later clarified that 10 government officials were among those arrested while the others are suspected drug traffickers with alleged links to office holders.

During the six-hour operation, police searched the premises of the federation president and government as well as a number of private apartments in central and southern Bosnia, said Grubesic.

The police also searched the premises of the regional commission in charge of pardoning convicted criminals and arrested the head of the commission, he said.

Local media have previously reported that Budimir was suspected of taking bribes in exchange for granting amnesty to a number of convicts.

The police said that one suspected drug trafficker, who was arrested in Friday's scoop, had been pardoned by Budimir.

Federation Vice President Mirsad Kebo said he had earlier asked the region's Constitutional Court to examine the legality of procedures by which some criminals have been granted amnesty over the past two years.

Budimir is at the centre of a political crisis that blew up in the federation last year. He is refusing to approve a reshuffle of the regional government and delaying the appointment of judges to the constitutional court.

Under a U.S.-brokered peace deal to end the war, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions joined by a weak central government - the federation and the Serb Republic. Each has a high degree of autonomy.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130426/bosnian-regional-president-arrested-graft-probe