Chairman of Serbia’s Privatization Agency Is Made Director Despite Alleged Money-Laundering Links
The chairman of the board of Serbia’s Privatization Agency – revealed by OCCRP partner KRIK to have once signed a deal with an associate of convicted drug lord Darko Saric – has been made director of the agency while it claimed it had checked his background and found no wrongdoing.
story, which was published July.The Privatization Agency has not presented any evidence from the internal investigation they say they have carried out into Muamer Redzovic’s dealings, and no other public institution has yet come forward with a response to KRIK’s
Redzovic’s predecessor as director of the agency, Ljudomir Subara, was dismissed last week. Serbia law stipulates that when a director of a state agency is sacked, the chairman of the board steps in.
Redzovic owns 14 percent shares in a firm called Trgopromet, of which he is also a supervisory board member, according to the website of the Agency for Business Registers.
Documents obtained by KRIK show Redzovic signed a deal with alleged Saric associate Blazo Dedic in May 2013. The agreement concerned the purchase by Trgopromet of debts owed by a company called Jedinstvo – a firm used by Saric to launder money, according to prosecutors. By taking over its debt, Trgopromet took control of Jedinstvo.
Organized crime prosecutors tried to block the transaction, which they said was “an attempt by members of Saric’s group to stop the state from permanently revoking the company”. But a Serbian court refused the prosecution’s request.
Reporters from OCCRP and KRIK published details of that transaction in their July story, but no response has yet been made by the Serbian government to allegations of cooperation by officials with organized crime figures.
After the story was published, Redzovic released a statement to say that although he was a shareholder of Trgopromet, he had no knowledge of contracts made by the company.
He also said he was unaware of being a member of the supervisory board, and only found out when a journalist told him. However he has not yet resigned his position on the board.
The Privatization Agency has defended Redzovic, repeating his points in a media statement.
Former director of the Privatization Agency Ljubomir Subara, who was dismissed from his role last week, held a press conference explaining the reasons for his dismissal in which he said Minister of Economy Zeljko Sertic had been dissatisfied with his work.
Subara also defended Redzovic, claiming that the agency had investigated allegations published by KRIK and OCCRP, but found that Redzovic was only a minority shareholder of Trgopromet and that the firm had no connection to Saric – despite the fact KRIK had published a contract between Trgopromet and alleged Saric associate Blazo Dedic.
Subara said that furthermore the investigation had failed to prove Redzovic was a member of Trgopromet’s supervisory board.
“We were never able to find such a document,” he said.
KRIK has found that a document appearing to show Redzovic’s position on the board is publicly available on the website of the Agency for Business Registers.
Despite this, Subara said he had talked to Redzovic’s partner, the majority shareholder of Trgopromet Vujadin Jankovic, who said Redzovic had never been a member of the board.
“I guess he knows best,” said Subara.
Jankovic himself has been subject to an investigation by authorities for suspected embezzlement in the firm Azotara, based in a city near Belgrade.
Subara added at the conference that he was cooperating with the board of the Privatization Agency.
"The chairman of the board Muamer Redzovic was appointed to my position. I have to say, although it may not be for the public, he asked me yesterday if I wanted him to resign as well. I thought it would negatively affect the agency,” said Subara.
The Anticorruption Agency has filed a complaint against Redzovic on suspicion that he failed to properly report all his assets and company roles.
By Bojana Pavlovic, Belgrade