The Evolution of Business Crime in Serbia

This month, we hear from Vladimir who has worked with international and domestic clients and advised on various procedural law matters. He counselled and represented clients before courts and arbitration tribunals in Serbia and abroad and cooperated with law firms Schoenherr and Karanovic-Nikolic, and was actively involved in two high profile cases before the UN court (ICTY) in The Hague. Vladimir started his career with Dragoslav Cetkovic, an esteemed defence attorney in 2005. He discusses compliance/anti-corruption and business crime matters in Serbia and how lawyers can ensure business and human rights are appropriately addressed*.


You are very active in various international affiliations, such as Roxin Alliance. What is your main role as their regional coordinator and business crime practice group co-head?

My main role is to facilitate knowledge management and access to experienced legal counsel with in-depth national and local knowledge, so that business crime and compliance/anti-corruption issues can be addressed where and whenever needed.


How has compliance/anti-corruption and business crime progressed in Serbia? How does this relate to nearby jurisdictions?

These areas have evolved significantly in the past years. Further changes of the Criminal Code are also in progress, especially the part referring to criminal actions in economic areas, with a special focus on the crime of tax evasion. In addition, the government is paving the way for Financial Investigation Strategy that comprehensively addresses the problem of financial crime and anti-corruption, in particular by facilitating efficient cooperation of relevant agencies responsible for collecting data and conducting financial investigations and preventing shifting of unlawfully gained funds into lawful business flows.

This also has significant impact to the nearby jurisdictions by fostering cooperation among judicial authorities of neighboring countries. Due to its geographical position, Serbia is a very important country for transnational crime prevention and therefore there was a striving need for a more efficient criminal enforcement and judicial cooperation via bilateral and Council of Europe treaties. Another tool – supported by bilateral assistance program of Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) – Criminal Procedure Code has however encountered a strong opposition from the majority of the Serbia’s legal community and has been seen as interfering with its legal tradition.


As a human rights expert, what do you think is the most pressing issue to portray across to legal professionals?

Effective dissemination of knowledge on European Convention on Human Rights and jurisprudence/admissibility issues pertaining to European Court of Human Rights.


What do you think the legal profession can do more of to ensure business and human rights issues are addressed appropriately?

Legal professionals should be the guardians and do their best to ensure application of relevant sections of United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in order for business enterprises to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts and seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services.


What was the most interesting find when you conducted research for Corporate Criminal Liability during your postgraduate studies and how did this shape how you practice law?

The most interesting thing was looking at correlation between criminal and corporate law and integrating these into my compliance/anti-corruption practice (i.e. acting as external ombudsman for different multinational companies) as well as business crime practice (i.e. distinguishing triggers for company responsibility for acts of its directing mind).


* The opinions of Vladimir Hrle expressed here are personal, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of current or past employers or colleagues, or professional associations, with which Vladimir has collaborated.


Contact Details

Vladimir Hrle, Hrle Attorneys

Address: Simina 1, Belgrade, Serbia

Tel: +38164 1106335




Vladimir is a member of Serbian Bar Association, European Criminal Bar Association (Anti-Corruption in Europe working group) and International Bar Association Human Rights Institute. He is active in the Balkans Regional Rule of Law Network of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (founding member), European Criminal Justice Observatory (deputy chair), Fair Trails International (Legal Experts Advisory Panel) and ICC Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-Corruption. He also co-heads the business crime practice group of Roxin Alliance.

Vladimir is a certified trainer of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals Programme, with the aim of ensuring high-quality further training on the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights for legal professionals. Vladimir authored numerous legal publications and did academic research on Corporate Criminal Liability at Amsterdam University, where he obtained his LLM degree.

Leave A Reply