Serbia’s KRIK Attacked by Pro-Government Tabloid

Hours after Serbian investigative outlet KRIK revealed that the brother of the country’s Finance Minister was using a car owned by two businessmen who regularly receive lucrative government contracts, a pro-regime tabloid accused a KRIK reporter of harassing the brother’s girlfriend and her baby.

Predrag Mali parking his AudiPredrag Mali parking his Audi (Source: KRIK)After the story about the possible corruption was published on Monday, the pro-government tabloid released a security camera video that shows a man with a backpack following the partner of the Finance Minister’s brother down a street toward their residence as she is pushing a baby pram. 

The tabloid first claimed the man was a KRIK reporter but then changed its story and said it was a KRIK “source” after KRIK used screenshots from the video to prove the person is not its reporter. The accusations were picked up by other tabloids. 

“The purpose of all of this is to divert attention from our story, in which we revealed the connections between the Finance Minister’s brother and the company which has won the largest government contracts,” KRIK’s Chief Editor, Stevan Dojcinovic, told OCCRP. 

The story claims that the ties between Predrag Mali, the brother of Minister Sinisa Mali, and the owners of the companies “Millennium Team” and “KVB Datakom” are so close, that Mali has for the past five years been driving an Audi belonging to the two businessmen. 

Additionally, KRIK revealed that Predrag Mali’s former girlfriend - who was the head of Belgrade’s Urban Planning Institute - used to live in an apartment owned by a company belonging to the same two businessmen. The 25 year-old woman commited suicide in that apartment three years ago, KRIK said. 

It is not the first time that KRIK has reported about the Finance Minister’s alleged dubious affairs.

Sinisa Mali was the mayor of Belgrade when in 2016 masked men razed parts of the Savamala neighborhood to make way for a grand development project, Belgrade Waterfront - one of the largest foreign investments into the country.

Witnesses told police that the heavy machinery used in the midnight demolition operation came from the direction of the Belgrade Waterfront construction site, where Millennium Team was working. The company had won a number of multi-million dollar government contracts under the watch of President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). 

One of the contracts was for the construction of the Belgrade Waterfront, which has received significant funding from the United Arab Emirates as a result government negotiations brokered by Sinisa Mali.  

KRIK also details Predrag Mali’s friendship with President Vucic’s brother, Andrej Vucic, as well as his alleged former corrupt business dealings and jobs.

It is also not the first time that KRIK has come under fire from pro-government tabloids. In its statement, KRIK notes that it became the target of tabloid lies in 2016 after investigating President Vucic’s property holdings. It said its reporters were tracked by intelligence agents who supplied tabloids with information and photos. 

Dojcinovic describes the fact that this time the outlet was accused of harassing women and children as “unbelievable,” and said the intention was to “portray us as bullies who do not respect any rules.” 

“We will continue to pursue this story, to return the public focus on it,” Dojcinovic told OCCRP, noting that this was just one of the many revelations KRIK and OCCRP had published exposing the corruption of Finance Minister Sinisa Mali.