By: Domen Mezeg (Nova24tv)
“We saw the director of a state-owned company on the show ‘Tarča’ (Target) when he spoke about the alleged business relationship – we are, of course, talking about the company MB Consulting – and he said that all the business documents of the subsidiary Gen-I Belgrade are owned by this company and that Gen-I in Slovenia, i.e., the state-owned company, is not entitled to the documents of its subsidiary, which is in the Balkans – in Serbia, to be exact,” MP Žan Mahnič reminded Golob at the 8th session of the National Assembly.
The March sitting of the National Assembly (which was its 8th regular session) opened with questions to Prime Minister Robert Golob and his Ministers. The questions were related to the healthcare reform, security in digital services, measures to deal with natural disasters, etc. Four questions were addressed to Golob, two of them by MPs of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS). Jelka Godec, leader of the SDS party parliamentary group, asked about ensuring security in the provision of digital services in the banking and economic sectors, and Žan Mahnič asked about the operating of companies directly or indirectly owned by the state, staffing in these companies, and activities in the area of corruption and economic crime with international elements.
The first person to pose a question to Golob was MP Godec. She asked: “Have you reported your identity stolen in Romania or Slovenia?” Golob once again responded with evasiveness and by feigning ignorance. According to him, if the MPs were “serious” about the question, they should have asked it in writing. Golob: “The answer is ‘yes’, very briefly, ‘yes’!” The MP was then given the opportunity to explain the request for a supplementary reply. Godec said: “This is about how the Prime Minister is preventing theft and abuse in the digital area, in the banking area… Thank you for answering ‘yes;’ so far, you have always answered ‘no’, claiming that reporting this is not necessary. I would be interested to know when you reported this and to whom.”
Golob: “In December 2021, before I decided to go into politics, I asked the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for two certificates: one, which proves that I had paid all my taxes, and the other, which proves that I did not have any foreign accounts, because I had never opened any myself.” Then the Financial Administration (according to Golob) warned him that there was an account open in his name abroad, but with the wrong address. However, despite the fact that the account had been opened, not a single euro was deposited into it. When Golob’s lawyers contacted the bank in question to ask about the existence of the account, the bank itself closed the account on the 3rd of January 2022, on the grounds that it had never been used, he explained. Last December, his lawyers then filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Romania.
A state-owned company is not entitled to the Belgrade branch’s documentation?
To that, Godec replied that the matter would be further discussed at the next session (on Wednesday, the 22nd of March 2023). She recalled that since the 24th of April 2022, Prime Minister Golob had repeatedly misled the public about him (not) opening the account in question, and about his stolen identity. When he was asked about this in November by MP Godec, he claimed that “everything was fine” and that “there was no need to report this.” And now he has said that he reported the matter in December. However, Godec and the MPs have still not received an answer as to whom or how the case was reported. Godec: “My opinion is that, given that there are still various questions and uncertainties related to the matter, which is directly related to the Gen-I energy company’s business, we need to have a debate in the National Assembly about this topic.”
MP Žan Mahnič then also asked the Prime Minister a question. He reminded those gathered in the National Assembly of the ease with which the government has been appointing family members of representatives of the ruling coalition to state positions/state-owned companies, and what a scandal it would have been if the same thing had happened during the Janša government. He also touched on the Gen-I energy company: “We saw the director of a state-owned company on the show ‘Tarča’, when he spoke about the alleged business relationship – we are, of course, talking about the company MB Consulting – and he said that all the business documents of the subsidiary Gen-I Belgrade are owned by this company and that Gen-I in Slovenia, i.e., the state-owned company, is not entitled to the documents of its subsidiary, which is in the Balkans or Serbia.”
“Has the financing of foreign diplomats to obtain business through their private companies been a regular practice at Gen-I?”
“Can you imagine that we have state-owned companies that can set up their own branches but are not entitled to the documentation,” Mahnič was critical. He then asked the Prime Minister why he was recruiting his friends, acquaintances or even relatives to management positions in Slovenian state-owned companies. “Is this the corporate governance of the new generation? Why is the state-owned company Gen-I not entitled to documentation and information from its subsidiaries? Is this also the case in other state-owned companies, and what controversial practices do you think this allows? And was it a consistent practice of Gen-I when you were running it to fund foreign diplomats through private companies to win energy deals, and is this still the practice in state-owned enterprises today?” He recalled that the last question was already asked by an RTV journalist, to whom Golob refused to answer. Golob replied that he was sure that the RTV journalist’s question had been answered twice (on two different shows).
Golob again portrayed himself as the victim, saying that the whole story of Gen-I’s dealings in some Balkan countries was created by the Office for Money Laundering Prevention of the Republic of Slovenia at the behest of the former leading coalition party. “No, it has never been Gen-I’s business practice to hire any diplomats to solicit business!” Golob once again tried to divert attention to Janša, saying that Kosovo’s ambassador Martin Berishaj was actually Janša’s friend. The current Prime Minister also denied any friendship with Berishaj, and said that they also did not have any “problematic business dealings.” He added that he hopes that the investigation into the matter will be concluded as soon as possible. To this, Mahnič responded with: “There have also been photos of Janša with Milan Kučan, but that does not mean that they are friends.” In addition, it was the Mladina magazine which published that there was an investigation of Golob going on. Golob also said that the government recruits staff on the basis of their abilities (for example, in Gen-I). However, he did not answer questions about the controversial cash withdrawal and why the parent state firm does not have access to the branch’s data.