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Djokovic travelled across Europe before Australia trip, at odds with declaration -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. Novak Djokovic, a Serbian tennis player, talks with Pepe Imaz, his assistant, during a Puente Romano Tennis Club training session in Marbella (Spain), January 3, 2022. Photo taken January 3, 20,22. REUTERS KMJ-GTRES/Handout

By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE (Reuters – Novak Djokovic traveled to Serbia for the Australian Open two weeks prior, three Belgrade residents claim. Their accounts are backed by Reuters. Social media posts that were contrary to information found in Novak Djokovic’s arrival to Melbourne contradicted the information in his immigration statement.

Two eyewitnesses, and an additional individual provided Reuters with Tuesday’s accounts. These reports corroborated previous social media posts showing Djokovic in Belgrade two weeks prior to his departure to Spain, then to Australia.

These statements contradict a Djokovic declaration that said he had never traveled within the last 14 days.

False or misleading information on the application form can result in a penalty up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine up to 6,600 Australian Dollars (US$4,730). It could also lead to the cancellation of the visa of the offenders.

Djokovic (world number one) is visiting Australia for the Australian Open. His visa was cancelled by the federal government upon his arrival in Australia. This was due to Djokovic not having received COVID-19 immunity and because his exemption from medical treatment was invalid.

After Djokovic’s successful legal challenge, a judge quashed the decision on Monday. However, the Australian government indicated that they were considering whether Djokovic could be cancelled using their discretionary powers.

Djokovic’s representatives and Australian lawyers did not reply to emails requesting comment about his movements during the period of 14 days preceding Jan. 5 and the details in his immigration form.

Responding to Reuters’ questions, Srdjan Djokovic sent a statement saying: “If any matter had not been clarified as some journalists have stipulated, the verdict might have been different.”

The posts were made on December 25th and claimed to contain Djokovic’s photos and video. However, it is not possible to verify the authenticity of these images.

Two eyewitnesses spoke with Reuters and said that they had seen the tennis player in Belgrade, possibly on or after December 24, which is in the time frame of 14 days before his arrival to Australia via Spain. They could not remember the dates on which they had seen the tennis player, but the two witnesses claimed they did not know. Djokovic’s video was confirmed by a third party via social media on December 25th in Belgrade.

DECLARATION TRAVEL

Before boarding his Emirates flight to Melbourne, Djokovic – like all travellers to Australia – was required to fill out a form called an Australia Travel Declaration.

According to Djokovic’s legal challenge, a copy the form that was completed by his attorneys and submitted to an Australian federal court as part of their legal challenge, one of the questions asked about Djokovic, his representative, had indicated that they had ticked a box that stated that Djokovic had not or would not travel within the fourteen days before his departure to Australia.

Djokovic claimed to Australian authorities that he traveled from Spain to Australia when he arrived on January 5, according to documents submitted by his lawyers and reviewed by Reuters.

Djokovic had to be in Spain by Dec. 23, in order to not have traveled in the fourteen days before his flight to Australia.

Asked to comment on whether it was investigating if Djokovic’s form contained misleading information, the Australian Border Force said it did not comment on operational matters.

The Australian response to COVID-19 Omicron was that it imposes a requirement for travellers that they “make a declaration detailing their travel history over the period of 14 days prior to their flight.”

STREET TENNIS

A video showing Djokovic playing in a impromptu match on tennis with an unidentified person Dec. 25, at a Belgrade street, is part of the evidence that Djokovic was there within the time frame of 14 days before going to Australia.

The video posted on the Instagram account of Belgrade real estate executive Igor Rogan showed someone matching Djokovic’s description, wearing jeans and a raincoat, playing tennis in a street. Reuters identified the location as West 65, a high-end apartment complex in Belgrade’s Novi Beograd district. In the background, you can see a branch of Rogan’s real-estate firm.

It was uploaded on December 25, and a caption stated that it was also recorded the day before. Reuters reached out to the company and a woman employee said that the West 65 branch was open on December 25th. Rogan also recorded the video in Belgrade that day.

She said, “I recall it being on the Catholic Christmas.” Orthodox Christians who make up the majority of Serbian Christians celebrate Christmas every January 7. She declined to identify herself. Rogan was referred to her questions and she declined to answer any further questions. He said to Reuters he was not interested in commenting.

Two eyewitnesses, who refused to be identified, claimed that Djokovic was in their vicinity.

The three accounts that the individuals gave to Reuters supported previous posts on social media.

Danilo Skerovic posted a picture on Twitter (NYSE.) on December 25, showing Djokovic with another fan, in front the same block. Rogan posted the same video of the tennis player wearing the exact same clothes. He had a tennis bat in one hand, and a tennis paddle in the other. Skerovic didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Petar Djordjic posted another photo of Djokovic on the Instagram account. Petar Djordjic plays handball for Serbia and Portugal’s club side S. L. Benfica. Djokovic was pictured in the exact same outfit against the identical backdrop as Djordjic. Djordjic didn’t respond to messages that were sent to his cell phone on Tuesday. S. L. Benfica failed to respond to our request for comment.

Djokovic claimed that his agent had completed the Australian travel document while he was being interviewed by an immigration officer at Melbourne’s airport. The transcript of the interview, which is part of the legal challenges, shows this. Elena Cappellaro was Djokovic’s agent. She did not answer a question about whether or she had completed the form.

Djokovic’s situation sparked a row between Canberra, Belgrade and fueled heated debate about COVID-19 mandatory vaccination policies.

Australia has been heavily criticized by the public for its Omicron wave infection and is home to more than 90% of double-vaccinated adults. Serbian tennis players’ supporters claimed that he was made a scapegoat of Australian authorities.

One Australian dollar equals US$0.72

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