By: Sara Kovač / Nova24tv
The show Planet 18 on Planet TV television channel recently 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 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.
Did Golob agree to a 15 percent bribe to government employees, or were they discussing the company’s stake? In any case, this is a harmful and illegal business practice
At that time, Reporter wrote that there were well-founded suspicions that the existing hydroelectric power plants deals were not done completely transparently but rather because of certain people knowing other high-ranking people in the right place in the Bosnian state administration. Namely, the media outlet Dnevni avaz published a video on its website on the 22nd of March 2009, which is a recording of a conversation between the already mentioned Spahalić, who was the director of Intrade energija at the time, and Safet Oručević, a former MP and mayor of Mostar. In one part of the video, the two can be heard discussing the construction of two hydroelectric power plants on the Neretva River, which is something that Spahalić had been trying to achieve for more than five years at the time as he was trying to obtain a concession with an own initiation offer. The video caused quite a stir in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as politicians and some other prominent people are also mentioned in it. According to Dnevni avaz, Oručević and Spahalić were tasked with drafting a strategy on how to obtain the consent of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Concession Commission and the Bosnian government with the help of Haris Silajdžić (member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency between 2006 and 2010 and President of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2008 and 2010). They wanted to obtain the concession as soon as possible, so that they would be able to resell it as soon as possible and thus, of course, earn some money as well – there was even talk of hundreds of millions of German marks.
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.
Apparently, Spahalić has not given up yet – did Golob try to help him with the scam?
Dnevni avaz later published another article, revealing that the company Intrade Sarajevo offered the company Elektroprivreda BiH a partnership in financing the construction of the Glavatičevo and Bjelimiči hydroelectric power plants on the upper Neretva, even though it did not receive a concession. According to the reports, this was Spahalić’s attempt to defraud Elektroprivreda in order to make an enormous profit at the expense of the state. But the plan then collapsed at the last minute. At the time, Dnevni avaz reported that Spahalić had sent Emir Avdić, one of its directors to Elektroprivreda BiH. Avdić offered Elektroprivreda a deal, according to which the company would have a 10 percent ownership in the two built hydroelectric powerplants, and Intrade would own the remaining 90 percent. However, this request was rejected because, in addition to not having a concession contract for the construction of hydropower plants, Intrade also did not have any other valid documentation for this project. Tarik Begić, the then-Assistant to the Minister of Energy, Mining and Industry of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the Bosnian media that Intrade never received a concession for these facilities. Bajazit Jašarević, Director-General of Elektroprivreda BiH, also confirmed that a meeting was held with representatives of Intrade, who allegedly sent a frivolous offer, as they did not have a concession at all. As already mentioned, Istrabenz already knew before these alleged talks that the deal in question would not take place – so it cannot be ruled out that Golob’s man negotiated on his own, perhaps with Golob7s consent. It is also interesting that the management of the Gorenje company announced in 2006 that Intrade had received a concession to exploit the energy potential of the upper Neretva – which, according to our information, is not true. Maybe Golob tried to help Spahalić in his deception with this move?
The German multinational RWE also played a prominent role in this Balkan energy saga. One of the first major projects in the Balkans was a construction of a treatment plan in Maribor. They were not successful in most of the deals in the whole of Balkan, as they did not agree to the so-called Balkan rules. This was also revealed in the video published by Dnevni avaz. As is well known, the amount of commission is particularly important for Balkan energy decision-makers. As investment experts in the field of Balkan energy told us, their prominent representatives dreamed of impossible commissions, so the Balkan energy mechanism is in total collapse. Our media outlet has repeatedly presented a comparison of returns between the Slovenian energy company Gen-I, the German RWE, and the Swiss Axpo. If Gen-I were to operate according to normal business standards, it would have to come to at least half the level of both of the other companies, but Gen-I, under the sixteen-year rule of Robert Golob, did not even come close. In the media outlet Prava, they pointed out that Gen-I had, on average, a little over one percent return in Golob’s time. The problem for the Germans was that they did not agree with the Balkan way of working. Thus, the recording we have written about is only a part of the Balkan energy story, which has been going on since the mid-1980s. And we will talk about the story of Golob’s chips next time. Perhaps Golob should ask his father, Valentin Golob, what it is like to start a business venture in the Balkans, as he is the Director of Soške elektrarne – the Soča river power plants. Robert Golob’s energy network is just a continuation and parking lot of the Balkan energy sector, where a Slovenian company literally “legalises” the dirty Balkan business of the parallel mechanism.