Aufruhr im Balkan wegen der "Pandora Papers"

10 Oct. 2021 19:08 o’clock

The “Pandora Papers” also list numerous officials from the Balkans who for years have hidden their undeclared assets in “offshore” destinations. For the time being, four names are mentioned – the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović and his son Blažo, the current Serbian Finance Minister Siniša Mali and Nikola Petrović, a close associate of the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

by Marinko UČUR

So far, people close to rulers have been in the public spotlight, especially in Montenegro, which has long been considered a “tobacco paradise”, through which tobacco products were smuggled with the blessing and knowledge of the state leadership. The media once wrote Milo Đukanović and his family members made a huge profit from illegal cigarette smuggling, which is why the Italian prosecutor Giuseppe Scelsi Initiated a preliminary investigation against the suspect in 2009. However, this investigation never led to any results that would hold the Montenegrin leader accountable.

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It should be noted that the well-known Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic, Co-founder, owner and editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper National from Zagreb, was murdered in 2008 for writing about the illegal trade in tobacco products. Lengthy trials were held in Belgrade and Zagreb for the proven murder, and the perpetrators and accomplices were sentenced to long prison terms. However, the real motives for the murder are still unknown, although investigators have come to some clues that lead to the conclusion that Pukanić was murdered because of his participation in the trial by the Italian judiciary in Bari at the time was prepared to prevent.

In the years that followed, Milo Đukanović was often publicly attacked for corrupt practices in Montenegro, but he escaped judicial investigations with his skillful “political gymnastics”. In public he is increasingly brought into conversation as the billionaire president from the small and poor country of Montenegro with its just over 600,000 inhabitants.

But as it now turns out, the investigative journalist Vanja Ćalović from the NGO “MANS“from Podgorica, who fights against corruption and organized crime, discovered during the” Pandora Papers “campaign and proved that Milo Đukanović spared no time in exercising his state offices in recent years to hide his enormous wealth.

During her research, the journalist followed Vanja Ćalović Traces leading to the offshore agency AlCoGaL , a leading Panama-based law firm with representation in all major offshore destinations, including the British Virgin Islands, through which the Đukanović family’s business was conducted. In the documentation of this Panamanian company, MANS found certified copies of contracts for the establishment of trusts that Milo and Blažo Đukanović had signed on June 21, 2012 with the British Virgin Islands registered company CM Skye 2 (PTC) Ltd. had closed.

The fact that this is actually the President of Montenegro and his son is shown by the certified files that were enclosed during the establishment of the trust and received by MANS and the journalist Ćalović: Milo Đukanović’s diplomatic passport and a water bill made out on his Address in Podgorica that served as evidence of his habitual residence. His son submitted a Montenegrin identity card and an invoice for renting an apartment in London. The “Pandora Papers” show that certified copies were sent from London to Switzerland to CM Management (Suisse) SA, which changed its name to LJ Management (Suisse) SA in March 2013 to hide the names of its principal.

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Thanks to data from the Panama law firm Alemán, Coldero, Galindo & Lee (AlCoGaL), which deals with the registration of companies in numerous offshore destinations and whose data has been leaked, MANS has discovered that the Swiss company is hiding Đukanović’s secret business. In the meantime, the concealment of information and secret deals on Panama, the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar continued, but the Montenegrin journalist Vanja Ćalović tracked them all down and published them on the official website www.mans.co.me.

Faced with grave allegations, President Đukanović described MANS ‘claims as “a show for the public” and “just another series of attempts to discredit the President of Montenegro and family members that MANS has been working on in vain for years”.

However, Đukanović, who is said to have “turned a blind eye” because of his openly anti-Russian stance, has in some ways revealed his business intentions, claiming that he was on in 2012 when he was no longer president working to create an infrastructure to start doing business with his son. It was around this time that he set up the Victoria Trust, which – while it was the owner – allegedly did not conduct any business transactions or had an open bank account. After Đukanović unexpectedly returned to the post of Prime Minister that same year, he passed all of his property in the Victoria Trust to his son Blažo Đukanović assigned.

The full investigation and all of the allegations contained in the Panama Papers were alarming enough for the Montenegrin opposition to demand the initiation of an investigation into the property and wealth of Đukanović, the longest-serving European ruler, whose mandate expires in 2023 is supposed to bring. Have the prerequisites for his early resignation been created? The answer to this question may be found in the Panama Papers.

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Another “melodious” name mentioned in the Panama Papers is the current Serbian Minister of Finance Siniša Mali, a close associate of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić. According to documents, the journalists of the Serbian Network for the Investigation of Crime and Corruption (CRY) as part of this international project, Siniša Mali, as the owner of two offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands on the Black Sea coast in the Bulgarian holiday resort “Saint Nicholas”, bought 23 apartments, and he bought another apartment in his own name when he was mayor of Belgrade. He did not report the property even though he was required to report it to the Corruption Prevention Agency.

Siniša Mali, as expected, denied these allegations, claiming that “the real target of these allegations was President Vučić” and offered the keys to these apartments to journalists if they were to be determined to have something to do with him.

The “Panama Papers” campaign at least caused unrest among the actors named in it. Some of them could be relieved of their public office and others could even be investigated. In the Balkans, however, such and similar solid actions have so far not led to the expected results, so it is assumed that everything could turn out to be without major consequences.

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