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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Golob’s Balkan Deals With Gen-I And Their Repercussions Abroad

By: Vida Kocjan

Robert Golob put Slovenia on the map of foreign countries. Just like he promised. But not with good business results or good practices, which is what we saw during the term of Janez Janša’s government when Slovenia was among the top countries in the international rankings. Golob has put us on the map because we are becoming the leaders in crime committed by the highest government officials, or rather – by him. Perhaps this is the reason why Golob has recently avoided travelling abroad.

There are certain indications that the Gen-I energy company scandal of the opening of bank accounts and the transfer of cash, including through various money mules, is gaining momentum. There are also references being made to CCTV footage in individual banks, including Raiffeisen Bank in Romania or, more specifically, Bucharest, even though Golob claimed until recently that he opened his Gen-I account in a remote Romanian village. It turns out that this account was opened at a Raiffeisen bank branch in Bucharest, not far from Gen-I’s headquarters. There are further references to the possibility of Robert Golob being questioned by certain investigators abroad. According to some sources, Golob is very afraid of the possible disclosure of the camera footage from the Romanian bank.

Protests at Fajon’s visit

After the New Year, the media in the Balkans reported extensively on the transfer of millions of euros from the Gen-I energy company to Priština. They claim that Robert Golob used state money from Gen-I to finance the election campaign of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti. The money was allegedly transferred by Martin Berishaj, Kosovo’s Ambassador to Croatia.

At the time when Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon visited Priština, we saw protests there, demanding Berishaj’s dismissal. Banners of the protesters showed Berishaj’s photo on 500-euro banknotes. We have not heard anything about all this from the Slovenian media, which is pro-government, pro-Golob, and pro-transitional left, or the parallel mechanism. Fajon also visited Serbia, but what the real purpose of these visits was, remains unknown. Many wonder whether she went there to cover for Golob and his friend Berishaj.

Investigation in Kosovo

A criminal complaint has been filed against Berishaj, and a special commission of inquiry has been set up in Kosovo to question him, and he is said to have “not been honest” with the commission. Further questioning has thus already been announced. The suspicious dealings of Robert Golob and Martin Berishaj in Kosovo have also been reported in the Albanian, Serbian and many other media. Berishaj and Golob, in connection with millions of euros of Gen-I money, are also central players in the affair in Montenegro.

The energy scandal

The Vice-President of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Vlora Çitaku, has called for an investigation and the dismissal of Kosovo’s Ambassador to Croatia, Martin Berishaj, over suspicions of involvement in the “energy scandal”. She noted that Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti “is the one who is becoming an obstacle to paving the way to accountability and truth.” According to her, the Kurti government has been trying to cover up the scandal since the beginning of April 2022, and she herself does not want Kosovo’s reputation as a country to be damaged even further.

Links to the mafia underworld

The PDK party’s Vice President Vlora Çitaku believes that behind the actions of Ambassador Martin Berishaj, there are close ties with the energy mafia underworld of the countries in the Balkan region. Berishaj is a friend of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who appointed him as the ambassador and consequently took the scandal under his direct protection. But despite the Kosovo government’s best efforts to silence the affair, it is growing and leading the way to the revelation of extremely worrying facts, not only on issues of diplomatic and personal integrity, but reaching as far as Prime Minister Kurti’s office itself, according to Kosovo media reports. Çitaku also mentioned that “Gen-I transferred 1.47 million euros to Ambassador Berishaj’s account.”  She stated that Berishaj had not reported this amount to the relevant Commission of Inquiry.

Money mules

Robert Golob’s strange Balkan dealings, which happened when he was still the President of the Management Board of the Gen-I energy company, also resonate elsewhere. The Albanian Times reported on deals between Martin Berishaj and Robert Golob involving almost 100 million euros. Citing the Slovenian online media Prava, they wrote that Gen-I would send money to its subsidiaries in Balkan countries, such as Bosnia, Serbia and Albania, and then through these companies would conclude contracts with well-known persons who would be paid “for their services.” However, these money transfers were only to be used to return the money to the real owners and then sent to tax havens or various stock exchanges. One of the people who carried out these money-moving tasks is said to be Martin Berishaj, who is also a Slovenian citizen. Prava also announced that the portal had gained access to what it called “the controversial ‘creative’ accounting of Gen-I, the largest electricity trader.”

Money transfers

The data obtained show that Gen-I transferred almost 100 million euros to its three foreign subsidiaries between 2015 and 2021. Of this, 60 million euros was transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina to pay for the implementation of a bank operation of financing invoices (invoices issued). In Albania, the loss of the Albanian subsidiary was most likely covered by a double financing operation carried out in 2021. 14 million euros was spent on this. Furthermore, Gen-I is believed to have made several transfers of several million euros in 2019 and 2020 for the purpose of operating a bank to finance invoices in its Belgrade branch. The media link Gen-I’s cash transfers in Slovenia to its subsidiaries in Belgrade and then payments from Belgrade directly to MB Consulting, a company owned by Martin Berishaj.

Money was wired to Serbia

According to the aforementioned portal, all transactions from Gen-I in Slovenia to Gen-I’s Serbian subsidiary were made in 2019. However, between January 2019 and September 2020, Martin Berishaj made several cash withdrawals that amounted to 600 thousand euros from the account of his company, MB Consulting. During this period, from January to December 2019, Gen-I’s Slovenian company transferred 4,183,834 euros through derivative transactions under the financing code ‘Invoice’, which means payment by invoice (for services or goods).

Money was also wired to NGOs

 The Albanian Times wrote that “there has been some speculation and information that confirms that money was transferred from one of Gen-I’s subsidiaries abroad for the election campaign of Kosovo’s current Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, and that part of the money was wired to a (currently unknown) non-governmental organisation (NGO).”

After the first media reports, Berishaj denied being involved in money laundering, and he did it via Facebook. However, he did not deny that he is the owner of the Montenegro company MB Consulting, nor did he deny the payments from Gen-I – the Serbian branch.

Involvement of the Serbian energy mafia?

The Albanian Times also noted that Robert Golob was previously a director of the company in question in Slovenia, before entering politics. Gen-I is the largest electricity trading company in the Balkans. They wrote that there are reasonable suspicions that he is involved in the Serbian electricity industry. The Albanian Post later found that there were also two companies in Kosovo owned by Martin Berishaj. Berishaj had Slovenian partners in these companies, some of whom are suspected of fraud in Slovenia.

In Slovenia, everything is being swept under the rug

The first information about the alleged irregularities linked to Golob and Gen-I came to light last spring, before the Slovenian elections to the National Assembly. The pro-Golob media remained silent, Golob evaded explanations, he disappeared in the last week before the elections, and the Kosovo Agency for the Prevention of Corruption filed a criminal complaint against Ambassador Berishaj with the Kosovo Prosecutor’s Office. In Slovenia, after being elected Prime Minister, Robert Golob immediately dismissed Damjan Žugelj, the Director of the Office for the Money Laundering Prevention, who was investigating his case. Golob also very quickly made sure that his people were put in place as investigators in Slovenia, which is a well-known fact.

The Necenzurirano (Uncensored) web portal also played an important role in this. The Albanian Post had already interviewed Primož Cirman in April, who, predictably, said at the time that the scandal had been invented by Janez Janša. The Bezjak-Cirman couple were also rewarded for this, and today, Cirman’s wife, Petra Bezjak Cirman, is the acting director of the Government Communications Office.

Golob’s convenient but not convincing excuse

Today, Golob keeps talking about the scandal being made up by Janša. In recent days, as the Balkan scandal has taken on new dimensions, he has repeated this and used the run-up to the elections as an excuse. Last Wednesday, Golob was talking to journalist Uroš Slak on POP TV, who asked him whether the Balkan transfers were also used to finance the election campaign in Kosovo. Golob’s answer was: “Do you know who launched this affair? It was launched by the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) before our elections. At that time, they said that I was being financed by this money and that my campaign was being financed. But then we found out that this Mr Berishaj, who, by the way, is the ambassador in Zagreb, is a personal friend of Mr Janez Janša. And at that moment, the reporting on the affair disappeared from Slovenia. Now it has apparently been resurrected in Kosovo, perhaps by friends, perhaps by enemies. I have no idea.” Slak then asked him another question: “So you are denying this, if I understand you correctly?” To which Golob replied, “It’s all completely made up.” The President of the largest opposition party, SDS, Janez Janša, who denies the alleged friendship with Berisha, spoke to journalist Luka Svetina on TV Slovenia last Thursday and said the following about Golob’s answer, in which he attacked the SDS party, in particular: “We are guilty of everything anyway. It would be strange if we weren’t also responsible for this. But the fact is that these writings were caused by certain money transfers about which documents have been published. In my view, this is just the tip of the iceberg. And I very much regret that since May, we have been waiting in vain for the three signatures of the New Slovenia (Nova Slovenija – NSi) MPs that were promised in order for us to set up a commission of inquiry also in the Slovenian National Assembly to investigate these suspicions.”

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