By: Ana Horvat (Nova24tv)
Energy deals in the Balkans, a mysterious “stolen” identity, for which Prime Minister Robert Golob has still not made clear whether he reported it and to whom, and the mysterious transfer of 103 thousand euros to Vesna Vuković – who first became the PR representative, and then the Secretary-General of the largest ruling party – which has never been explained. In other countries, all this would have been more than enough to make a prime minister resign over such matters, but this is clearly not the case in Slovenia. In this week’s episode of the show Current Affairs (“Aktualno”) with the host Boris Tomašič, eminent journalists Bojan Požar, Mirko Mayer and Luka Perš spoke about the issues mentioned above.
“Slovenia has never seen anything like this before, that a director of a state-owned company gets rich and receives a salary that is on a par with the salaries of directors of energy companies in the world,” said Bojan Požar on this week’s episode of the show Current Affairs. Almost a year has already passed since the allegedly controversial energy deals in the Balkans were revealed, which are still not being reported on by the mainstream media in this country but are one of the main topics in the Balkans. Prime Minister Robert Golob has been accused of a number of controversial matters, to which he apparently does not feel obliged to respond. Even when Maks Helbl answers on behalf of the Gen-I energy company, he gives completely contradictory answers. Still, the matter must be cleared, and on this week’s Current Affairs, other eminent journalists who covered the story also spoke about the matter in more detail.
Investigative journalist Požar believes that the mainstream media played a big role in all of this, as they did not report on it at all. “There was already talk of this before the elections, but somehow it all just passed by somehow, and Golob seems to have gotten used to it,” Požar said. That is, until the Balkan dealings were also covered by RTV Slovenia’s show Target (“Tarča”). “And when you can clearly see the beginnings of some substantive answers, the whole thing looks extremely confusing – Maks Helbl, who is currently in charge of Gen-I, gave two different explanations on the same show as to why these transfers went to Martin Berishaj. First, he said that he was a consultant who was just opening doors for the company, and then he said that he was paid on the basis of deals that had been made, and then we heard a third version of the same story in Prime Minister’s answer to the MPs. In short, either everybody is blatantly lying, or at least one of them is,” said Mirko Mayer, editor-in-chief of Planet TV’s news programme.
Golob “stepped on the toes of the wrong guys”
Luka Perš, a journalist of the web portal Prava, who basically started this whole story, found out during research that Martin Berishaj was actually a financial mule. “From 2015 to 2022, there were two banking operations happening in the Belgrade branch of Gen-I, with two of Martin Berishaj’s companies – MB Consulting, in Montenegro and Kosovo, transferring sums of money that Berishaj withdrew in large amounts of cash,” Perš pointed out. Based on all the information, he concludes that this was “cash back”: “Berishaj was withdrawing cash, and with his diplomatic immunity he could travel anywhere, it was the old trick of moving cash through diplomats, and Berishaj was probably one of those who did it.” All of this, Perš said, was orchestrated by the US intelligence services because, according to him, at some point Gen-I “stepped on the toes of the wrong people, who then made this affair public.” The television show host Boriš Tomašič went on to say that during his visit to Kosovo, he obtained more than 100 pages of documents from people dealing with the issue, “they did not dare to appear on camera because they claim that the mafia is behind it, that Golob’s business is just the tip of the iceberg”.
It is impossible that these transactions passed by Golob without him knowing about them
Everyone on the show agreed that Golob did not manage these deals directly, but they also agreed that it is impossible that the CEO of Gen-I did not know how and in what way his company was doing business. “What is already known about Robert Golob from the time of Gen-I and now his time in the government is that he wants to control the game, and so I am sure that such transactions did not pass him by,” said Mayer, adding, “And additionally, look, we heard things on the show Tarča that are insulting to the Slovenian public, because we heard from Helbl that the parent company in Slovenia has extremely limited access to the business documentation of the subsidiary, which is run in Serbia by the same man – Mr Koprivnikar. What is one to think, then, that Mr Koprivnikar cannot look at his own documents in the two companies he runs?”
According to Požar, all of what is alleged against Golob does not only strictly concern Golob, but also shows how Slovenian state-owned companies operate abroad. “The question remains, and from several points of view, whether we taxpayers can tolerate this, because he is also using taxpayers’ money to bribe politicians and the like,” said Požar, who agrees with Mayer that “it is impossible that such huge sums of money just passed by Golob, and that four people shared the profits in the proceeds of this deal – Berishaj, the Kosovo prime minister, a high-ranking official at Gen-I, and the director of a scientific institute.”
Tomašič went on to say that the public prosecutor in Kosovo has already filed a case against Berishaj on suspicion of money laundering. He also finds it interesting that Berishaj officially became a citizen of Kosovo just one day before he became a diplomat, which further confirms that this was a “serious criminal act.” Požar commented that this is how he secured his immunity, but what is controversial is that, in a way, “a Slovenian state-owned company financed controversial deals involving not only the Prime Minister, but also foreign diplomats.” However, the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia is not investigating this, even though this involves a Slovenian citizen.
“Berishaj is an influential name, the affair exploded after my disclosure of data from Erar, the online service which provides insight into the operations of state-owned companies, that a total of €81 million had been transferred to Gen-I subsidiaries in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia,” Perš said, showing a document proving this. The guests agreed that this was a direct involvement in politics that did not stop him when it should have.
Požar went on to say that when Golob entered or returned to politics, he asked people who knew Golob how “heavy” he was, and their estimate was a few million euros, but others claimed that this was not the case and that it was actually “a few tens of millions of euros.” At first, Požar did not believe this, “but now that we see these figures, 100 million here, 100 million there, we basically have a case of a Director who is not wealthy but has become rich, he has become a millionaire.” Požar added that his salary was actually comparable to the salaries of other directors of energy companies in the world, “it has never happened before that a director of a state-owned company became so rich.”
Golob’s first official visit is to the country where the tapes are kept
The interlocutors went on to touch on Golob’s first foreign visit, which was to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he is said to have made allegedly controversial deals in 2009. “The first official visit is to a country where these recordings are kept, and then it is no wonder that he starts promising millions for the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Union,” Požar noted. And let’s not forget the clip of Nihad Spahalić, Robert Golob’s man, talking to Safet Oručević, former MP and mayor of Mostar. In the clip, the two can be heard discussing the percentage that the Slovenian partner – Golob – should keep in the whole deal. Spahalić noted that Istrabenz could have a maximum 15 percent stake in a company investing in the construction of a hydroelectric power plant.
“Even Albin Kurti‘s party has labelled Gen-I as mafia, and it is also very likely that Berishaj is the one with influence over IFIMES, and Zijad Bečirevič was also involved in deals with solar power plants in Macedonia,” Perš added, who also cited his own sources, namely that the explosion of the Gen-I affair also led to the involvement of Vesna Vuković and the giant Šolak, who allegedly started to mass-produce “fake news” in order to divert attention away from Golob and back to Janez Janša.
“This cluster of the top of politics in a country, the top of the media, organised crime, is usually the subject of a great series in Serbia or Croatia, which we have historically considered to be a little less or a little lower than us when it comes to political culture, but unfortunately, this is not the case here, as in our country, we are not talking about a series – this is our reality, we are talking about the people who rule the country,” Mayer was clear.
Why is the affair not being reported in other media?
Tomašič also wanted to know why the mainstream media, such as POP TV, do not report on the affair. Is the journalistic scene really so heavily influenced by politics that it needs a green light on any topic it wants to report? Požar pointed out that POP TV has not revealed any major affairs in the last 20 years. “We are talking about serious Balkan stories, the Prime Minister’s financial intelligence deals, but POP TV is talking about one surgeon who got 6 thousand euros, and he saved someone’s life,” Požar stressed, who believes that the mainstream media will not react until someone pushes the button.
Mirko Mayer explained the confusion surrounding the media, politics and organised crime. He said that in the culturally more backward Balkans, great soap operas are made, but in our country, this is the reality. “This is a group of people who occupied Gregorčičeva Street.” Mayer noted that Slovenians have sadly become what we like to call “the Balkans”.
The end of Golob
And when will Golob say goodbye to politics, Tomašič wondered? Požar, who has been following politics for a long time, thinks that “anything is possible” here. According to his information, Golob has been gathering funds for a long time to take over 51 percent of Gen-I and transform it into a private company, which would give him hundreds of millions of euros in assets. “Most of my acquaintances on the left tell me that he will last until the end of this year at the most.”
Mayer has information from government rooms, where he has been told that Golob takes many things very personally and gets extremely angry at certain things. “He often has impulsive thoughts of just giving up and walking away.” According to him, Golob will leave when he has finally privatised the energy sector. He added, however, that Golob is so bad at politics that he may be surprised by the end, even before the energy pillar is privatised, and may even be left without it.
Meanwhile, Perš is convinced that Borut Jamnik is behind the whole story, so his closing statement was: “Robert Golob will leave when Borut Jamnik gets fed up with him.”