Regional countries are asking Serbian authorities to broaden their investigation into tycoon Miodrag Miskovic.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 04/01/13
Miodrag Miskovic's business dealings in the region are being investigated. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
Governments throughout the region are examining the business dealings of Serbian tycoon Miroslav Miskovic following his arrest in mid-December on suspicion of the illegal privatisation of 10 road maintenance companies.
Miskovic conducted business through his Delta Holding company, which is active in Bulgaria, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Cyprus.
"We are investigating the privatisation and business practices of Standard, a firm owned by Delta Holding. Standard shareholders filed charges accusing [Delta Holding] of damages in the amount of over 10 million euros," Jasmina Omicevic, spokesperson of the Sarajevo canton prosecutor's office, told SETimes in a statement.
Miskovic's business dealings should have been investigated a long time ago, according to Srdjan Blagovcanin, director of Transparency International BiH.
"The BiH prosecution should urgently review not just this but all suspicious privatisations in which Miskovic participated," Blagovcanin told SETimes.
In 2006, Miskovic bought BiH's state-owned newspaper distribution company Oslobodjenje for 50 euros. Since then, he has taken out multimillion-euro loans and paid them off by selling the company property, shuttering the company and leaving more than 300 workers jobless.
But the biggest deal Miskovic conducted in the country was the purchase of 58 percent of Banja Luka's Boska shopping mall for 1.5 million euros in 2008.
The privatisation required Delta Company to pay mall workers 1 million euros in salary owed to them as well as to pay off Boska's 5 million-euro debt, but neither has happened.
Regional co-operation is crucial in proving criminal wrongdoing in high-profile cases and the Balkan countries have shown significant advancements in curbing trans-border crime in recent years, according to experts.
"We have excellent co-operation with our colleagues from Montenegro, BiH, Croatia, Slovenia and the EU countries. These cases are complex and concern millions of euros. It is important to exchange data and information to carry out a good investigation," Miljko Radisavljevic, Serbia's special prosecutor who is leading the investigation against Miskovic, told SETimes.
Miskovic began building his business empire during the time of Slobodan Milosevic and has been close to every government after the democratic changes in Serbia in October 2000.
Montenegro officials sold Miskovic the Radoje Dakic machine factory in 2007 for 7.6 million euros. Miskovic demolished it two years later and began building apartments and commercial office space there.
"We suspect serious organised crime occurred in the selling process," Milan Vukcevic, president of the Union of Former Radoje Dakic workers, told SETimes.
"For that amount of money, Miskovic's firm received 50,000 square meters of land and buildings which was owned by the factory. Shortly afterwards, residential buildings were built [there, as well as] one of biggest shopping malls in the Balkans, Delta City," Vukcevic added.
The workers sent a letter to Serbia's special prosecutor asking him to widen the investigation into Miskovic's activities in Montenegro, but the Serbian authorities have not responded.