Serbian Minister Sues Journalist Over Paradise Papers
A Serbian minister is suing OCCRP partner KRIK for revealing he owns offshore companies and assets worth US$ 100 million. KRIK’s story is based on the Paradise Papers, a massive data leak from a law firm based in Bermuda.
The law firm Appleby had declared Nenad Popovic, a minister without portfolio, a high risk person after having dug into his background, according to leaked e-mail exchanges between staff members.
Popovic has been a legal resident and taxpayer in Switzerland since 2008 and the leaked documents show that he controls offshore companies registered in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), companies in Russia, and property in at least three countries.
He turned to Appleby with a request to help him manage his empire but the law firm marked him a “high risk” after having found Russian media reports tying his businesses to shady characters and a famous corruption case. It is unclear which side backed away although Popovic has claimed it was him.
Popovic’s lawsuit claims KRIK’s article has damaged his reputation and that he wants a million dinar (US$10,149) compensation from KRIK.
“The plaintiff is exposed to daily attacks and insults from citizens who accuse him of being a thief and ask him to resign,” the lawsuit says. “The plaintiff has also noticed that after the disputed information was published, some fellow politicians, as well as business partners with whom he has previously communicated and cooperated, have stopped talking to him and have started avoiding him.”
KRIK has said the story is based on documents from the Paradise Papers and there is no allegation that the information is inaccurate. KRIK was among the 96 media organizations from 67 countries that analyzed the leaks. The findings were also published by OCCRP.
“This lawsuit is baseless because everything OCCRP and KRIK said was factually accurate and contained in documents from the Paradise Papers,” said OCCRP Editor-in-Chief Drew Sullivan. “This is politics designed to pressure KRIK but it won’t work.”