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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Were Commissions a Standard Part of the Electricity Oligarch Golob’s Corrupt Deals?

By: Domen Mezeg / Nova24tv

The new face of the left, electricity oligarch Robert Golob, was caught with his fingers in the delicious Bosnian cookie jar. Namely, the television channel Planet TV presented a video clip from 2009 to the public, which briefly appeared on the website of the Dnevni Avaz newspaper at the time, and then disappeared from the internet for more than a decade. In it, there was talk of the division of commissions and ownership shares in the 300-million project of the construction of hydroelectric power plants on the Neretva River. In response to the video, Golob said no commission was ever paid because the project was not implemented. So, were commissions a standard part of his work in the state energy sector?

The electricity oligarch Robert Golob is finding it increasingly difficult to justify his financial greed. It should be reminded that his illegal salary in the state company Gen-I, in the amount of 45 thousand euros, has been causing quite a stir in the Slovenian public for months now. And on Saturday, the television channel Planet TV released a story that revealed that Golob also wanted to earn some money at the expense of Bosnians. Namely, the show Planet 18 on Planet TV television channel shared a video from 2009 in which Nihad Spahalić, a man that is closely related to the new face of the left, Robert Golob, is talking to Safet Oručević, former MP and mayor of Mostar from Bosnia and Herzegovina, about commissions and ownership shares in the construction of two hydroelectric power plants in Neretva. The affair, which was called “the Energy Mafia” in Bosnia, was one of the most high-profile scandals that happened there, but it did not attract much attention in Slovenia, Planet TV reported. Despite the deal not being realised in the end, Spahalić sold his stake just before the decline, to the Slovenian company Istrabenz, for an incredible 15 million euros.

The fact that the company Intrade is also owned by Slovenians had been hidden from the public in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a long time, as the businessman Nihad Spahalić claimed to be the only owner. However, the Bosnian energy company Intrade Energija was actually 51 percent owned by the Slovenian company Istrabenz energetski sistemi (Istrabenz energy systems) – and its chairman of the board was, of course, none other than the electricity oligarch and the latest “new face” candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Robert Golob. Eight Austrian companies and the company Intrade Energija thus came into play for the share, which was worth 300 million euros, and according to the Reporter magazine, the Bosnian authorities liked Intrade Energija best. The Croatian newspaper Poslovni dnevnik (Business Daily) reported that the then-Bosnian Industry and Energy Minister Vahid Hećo wanted to offer the Slovenian-Bosnian company a concession for the construction of eight large thermal and hydroelectric power plants on the basis of its own initiative offer. This information was never confirmed, but the Bosnian media wrote about the controversial nature of the deal, saying that it smelled strongly of corruption and cheating of Bosnian citizens.

In 2004, the Istrabenz company opened two of the four small hydropower plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a total investment value of 7.5 million euros. Allegedly, they already overpaid the concessions for the building of expensive powerplants – Golob’s trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina never paid off. In the same period, according to the newspaper Finance, Intrade Energija, which is 51 percent owned by Istrabenz energy systems, submitted a request with the Bosnia and Herzegovina government for a concession for the construction of two large and one small hydropower plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The total investment was worth 300 million euros. “We are hoping to obtain a concession in the first quarter of next year, and the construction of all the powerplants is expected to take about nine years in total,” Golob said at the time. But these plans were never realised – not only because the highly religious circles were against Istrabenz winning the deal, but also because the company Tehel, led by former Prime Minister of the Yugoslavia government, Ante Marković, sent an own-initiative bid.

The willingness to take a bribe clearly shows what Golob’s values are really like
The public tender, therefore, had to happen, and the winner was the Austrian consortium APET – but later, the entire tender was annulled, so no deal was ever actually made. Spahalić and Oručević also discussed the share that the Slovenian partner would have to maintain in this business situation. Spahalić stated that Istrabenz could have a maximum share of 15 percent in a company that invests in the construction of a hydroelectric power plant. However, it is also possible to interpret that the interlocutors were thinking that they also wanted to have something from the sale of state property or the concession and that there is talk of 15 percent bribery of government employees – which is, of course, a conscious crime of bribery. Such an act is controversial in several aspects, but currently, the most pressing issue is that Golob agreed to pay a bribe – which clearly shows what his morals are like. There are many indications that a lot of money has been “lost” in Bosnia and Herzegovina, some of which went to bribing officials.

This is true for most of the Balkan deals, and Golob’s was allegedly no different. But what is even more shocking is the fact that it was difficult to convince Golob to take the 15 percent “pittance.” And in this whole situation, Golob’s reaction to Planet TV announcing the release of the clip is the most interesting. Even before anything had been revealed to the public, Golob had already recorded a video denying that he ever received any sort of bribe. Apparently, he is well aware of what this was all about. In his speech, he tried to “wash his hands of guilt,” like Pontius Pilate, refuting all the controversial details that could prove his guilt in light of the upcoming affair. As he explained in advance, he never had a bank account or a company set up abroad, and he never received a single euro of bribe in his life, neither in cash nor to a bank account. And what is particularly interesting: in the conclusion of his statement, he said that the accusations are actually pretty ridiculous and that he does not pay any attention to them at all.

The electricity oligarch has surrounded himself with people notorious for illegal business practices and financial and sexual scandals
Is this a Bosnian business transition that he was simply unable to resist because business is business? This is quite a serious dilemma of whether this is Golob’s usual practice and, if yes, should such a man really be entrusted with state property, in a similar way to how his friend, the Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, was entrusted with the municipal property? For the latter, we already know that he is immersed up to his neck in financial and sexual scandals. Let us also mention the illegal “business practices” of another member of the list of the Freedom Movement (Gibanje Svoboda), Urška Klakočar Zupančič, who offers her clients illegal law assistance. But perhaps Golob really is innocent, and all he needs is a saintly glow over his head. Maybe he is just that naïve, and all the threads are actually being pulled by others? In any case, he seems to be surrounded by a bunch of Slovenian and Bosnian friends, who are obviously doing business in an extremely controversial way. To conclude, we can add the famous proverb: “Tell me with whom you consort with, and I will tell you who you are.”


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