Serbia: Land Illegally Acquired by Belgrade Mayor Returned to State

Published: 11 September 2017

Sinisa Mali foto J. VasicSinisa Mali (Photo: J. Vasi

By Tessine Murji

By Bojana Pavlović, Nataša Marković

A Serbian court ruled that ten hectares of land illegally acquired by Belgrade’s mayor and his father 12 years ago must be returned to the state, KRIK reported Monday.

The affair came to light two years ago when the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) and the OCCRP reported that the state land used by Alfa Protein - a company formerly owned by the state but privatized by it’s director Srdjan Gajic in 2003 – was given to Mali.

Mali was director of the tender department at the state Privatization Agency at the time Gajic privatized the company.

Two years later, Gajic sold the land he never owned to Compost Group, part of a holding company majority-owned by Sinisa Mali’s father, Borislav Mali.

It was never paid for.

Mali later took over his fathers’ holding company and sold it for 500,000 euro to Alessio Investment, an offshore in the British Virgin Islands he was director of.

The company listed its representative office at the same address as Mali’s apartment in Belgrade, and his wife as the representative.

However, the land was still registered as being owned by Compost Group which produced compost - organic matter used to grow mushrooms.

Gajic was in 2015 sentenced to two years on probation for illegally giving away the land he never owned but authorities never investigated mayor Sinisa Mali as the buyer.

In May 2017, a court in Pancevo ruled the contract by which Gajic sold the land was invalid and that the land be returned to the state.

The ruling is not final and may be appealed.

The controversial mayor continues to enjoy support from Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic despite numerous affairs he is allegedly involved in.

Another KRIK and OCCRP investigation found that, while holding various positions within the Privatization agency, Mali helped his father privatize “Bratstvo,” a formerly state-owned railroads parts company.

The journalists also found the mayor concealed that he bought 24 apartments at the Bulgarian seaside in 2012 and 2013 as legal representative of two offshores based in the British Virgin Islands.

Mali’s ex wife told KRIK her former husband organized the illegal destruction of private property in Savamala, a Belgrade neighborhood that was ravaged with heavy machinery in the middle of the night in April last year.

The neighborhood allegedly stood in the way of the Belgrade Waterfront, a construction project supported by the mayor.

Prime Minister Vucic said in May that Mali will not be Belgrade’s mayor in the future because the campaign launched against him makes his rerun impossible.

Last week, however, Vucic changed his mind.

"I regret that I ever said Sinisa Mali will not be our candidate for mayor of Belgrade,” Vucic said, explaining he said that “under heavy pressure which I could not endure."