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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Did The Director Of The Ifimes Institute Help Gen-I Get Business In Macedonia?

By: Sara Kovač (Nova24tv)

Zijad Bečirović most likely helped the Gen-I energy company get business in Macedonia, and as a reward, he became an advisor to the former North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the web porta Prava.si writes. Bečirović was also the recipient of sponsorship or funding for the organisation of an event by Gen-I at which Albin Kurti was present. All this raises the question of whether he has declared lobby contacts or conflicts of interest to the Macedonian Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. Is there a new corruption scandal brewing in Macedonia?

In last Thursday’s episode of the show Tarča, where the suspicious transactions of the Gen-I subsidiary were discussed, perhaps the most interesting guest was the “first defender” of Robert Golob, Zijad Bečirović, the Director of the Ifimes Institute. “Martin Berishaj is one of the founders of Ifimes, which is run by Bečirović and financed by Gen-I. This clears everything up,” Boris Tomašič tweeted from Priština on Friday. Berishaj runs the Institute for Albanian Studies in Ljubljana – and is probably linked to Bečirović’s Institute through it. Prava.si reveals that Bečirović very likely helped in getting Gen-I business in Macedonia. As a reward, he became an advisor to former North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, writes Luka Perš.

“In the uncovering of Gen-I’s allegedly shady Balkan dealings, the important role of Ifimes – the Ljubljana-based International Institute for Middle Eastern and Balkan Studies – has been inadvertently highlighted,” Perš writes, and goes on to say that all indications are that Bečirović is using both his international allies at Ifimes and his connections and acquaintances in the Freemason circles in the Western Balkans to exert his influence in the Western Balkans region. Moreover, in 2015, he met with former North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who became Prime Minister of North Macedonia in 2017. Gen-I then won the right to build the largest solar power plant on a degraded area in Amzabegovo, in the municipality of St. Nikola, through a public tender in 2019.

In its previous articles, Prava.si wrote about Gen-I’s controversial business dealings in Macedonia. Why is Macedonia important? In October 2022, Siol published the news that Gen-I had commissioned the largest solar power plant in Northern Macedonia. The article said, among other things, that in 2019, Gen-I won the right to build and lease for 50 years the land for a solar power plant with a total capacity of 17 MW on a degraded area in Amzabegovo, in the municipality of St. Nikola, through a public tender. However, according to Prava.si, it was Bečirović’s international connections that secured the deal. It should be noted that Slovenian companies in the field of electricity sales and purchase have been important donors and sponsors of Ifimes events. Among them is also Gen-I, which was headed by the current Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob, until November 2021. In short, Bečirović became an advisor to the North Macedonian Prime Minister in September 2019. Was this job a reward for Bečirović’s successful lobbying to win a deal in Gen-I’s tender to build Macedonia’s largest solar power plant?

In 2012, the Macedonian Commission for the Protection of Competition filed an infringement complaint against four electricity traders on suspicion of having created a cartel where their bids dictated the prices for electricity imports. The tender that the Commission was referring to was made public in January 2012. Two of the companies named were Gen-I and Rudnap. At the end of 2012, the Macedonian customs office levied additional financial penalties for customs duties because the trio had evaded duties in various ways. On the 27th of March 2012, the Commission for the Protection of Competition filed infringement notices – against four electricity trading companies – on suspicion that they had broken the law by colluding on their bids for a tender for the purchase of electricity. The Commission suspected that the four companies – Gen-I, Rudnap Group, Espada and EFT – had created a cartel organisation in order to dictate prices for electricity imports and to have an advantage over other companies also bidding for the tender. The accused companies have denied all allegations and claimed that there is healthy competition in the electricity market.

Prava.si has presented the names of the members who hold positions in the Ifimes Institute – when looking at the names, the reader gets the impression that this is an organised international association with a strong influence on political developments in the Balkans. In addition to Bečirović, the other Director is Bakhtyar Aljaf, an Iraqi Kurd who has lived in Slovenia for a long time, and the list of the other members is also not lacking in eminent political names. We also have the former Croatian President Stjepan Mesić, who holds the post of Honorary President of the Institute. Other names are also interesting. The Department of Local and Regional Studies (DeLORS) is headed by Dr Milan Šenčur, a former member of Golobič’s Zares party. The Department of Economic and Business Studies (DeEBS) is represented by Vlado Dimovski, a former prominent member of the Social Democrats party. Irena Mernik Knee, the advisor to former President Danilo Türk when he was serving at the United Nations, represents Ifimes at the UN/ECOSOC.

Tell me who your friends are…

The Balkan media have reported that Bećirović was a business partner of Dragan Pajić, the former mayor of Brčko, who has been accused of abuse of office and accepting bribes. Pajić was arrested in the Bingo operation, which was aimed at cracking down on corruption and abuse of official position and power. Ifimes had previously awarded Pajić with an award for the best mayor in BiH, but soon afterwards, Pajić went to jail. According to the same media outlet, Bećirović had been trying for years to set up a business in Brčko, referring in particular to his ex-wife, who worked at the OSCE. When this failed, he turned to Slovenia. But he did not give up on his hometown, and together with Pajić, he tried to deceive the local people, they said, adding that Bećirović falsely presented himself as a member of the Freemasons. He also works closely with Dr Edvin Dervišević, who is involved in strange business. It is also interesting to see where Dervišević is employed: at Ljubljana’s Faculty of Sport. “They are not the well-meaning guys that they present themselves to be,” the media outlet stressed, explaining that they were trying to build a Slovenian university in Brčko – they had asked for 40 million marks to redevelop the former “Interplet” industry hall, but the real value of the project, according to insiders, was five million. “The Assembly put a stop to this nonsense. It was the biggest money laundering and a big problem for Pajić and Bećirović themselves,” they added. He also tried to blackmail politicians in Montenegro with his Institute but was reportedly quickly exposed by the Montenegrin media as nothing but a crook. “He is also allegedly linked to radical Islamic circles. Questions are being raised as to how and with what money his alleged Institute, which has no scientific credentials but is apparently just a lever in the hands of a conman, is being financed”, the foreign media also add.

While the Balkan media write that Bećirović is falsely introducing himself as a member of the Freemasons, Perš believes that this could be true. “We have learned that Bečirović is also a high-ranking Freemason cast member of the Grand Lodge of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he wrote, recalling how Gen-I probably gained business in North Macedonia. Experts on the situation in the Balkans told Perš that Martin Berishaj was also an important factor with Zaev and Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitri Kovačevski. These are the so-called important representatives for the political and economic interests of the Albanian mainstream in the country. As a high-ranking member of the Masonic Lodge in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bečirović is said to have had a certain influence in controlling his position in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also in the so-called Bosnian part of the Grand Lodge of Croatia. An important player in the Zijad Bečirović’s network is also Mladen Terčelj, the founder and one of the first leaders of the Slovenian Freemasonic Lodge, writes Prava.si. Terčelj is the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Slovenian Press Agency. In the past, he worked at the “Nova Ljubljanska banka” bank as the CISO in the field of information security and personal data protection, as well as setting up the information security management system for the entire NLB Group. “There are no coincidences. Bečirović, Trčelj, Ibrahimpašić and Egypt, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Ifimes, Gen-I, NLB and Iranian money. Is this terrorist financing? You decide for yourself …,” an unnamed source from intelligence circles told Prava.si, who also said that Bečirović has been on the radar of foreign intelligence services for years.

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