International review Investigation

Serbia fights anti-corruption claims by turning journalists into “drug addicts”

Source: KRIK.

Defense Minister Vulin Can’t Explain Origins of More Than €200,000 in Cash

This material belongs to: KRIK.

Serbia’s Defense Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, told the country’s anti-corruption agency that his wife’s aunt from Canada lent the couple more than €200,000 to buy their Belgrade apartment, but submitted unconvincing evidence for his claim.

When questioned by the agency about his ability to afford the 107 square meter property, Vulin’s dubious explanations raised suspicion of criminal activity.

Vulin and his wife Natasa bought the flat in 2012 and he first told the agency that he paid it with money he received from the sale of his property in Novi Sad, a city in northern Serbia.

KRIK uncovered that he sold the one-bedroom apartment in Novi Sad to his brother for €38,000 after he received it as a gift under unexplained circumstances.

The anti-corruption agency contended that Vulin couldn’t have even paid for the first installment of his Belgrade property with the small proceed that he received from his brother and pushed him for another explanation.

This time, Vulin told the agency that he borrowed €205,000 from his wife’s aunt in Canada, handing as proof a ten-year loan agreement, signed by his wife, confirming that she received the money. The signature from the purported aunt in Canada was missing, however.

Vulin further submitted a document with the signature of the apartment’s seller who lives in Marbella, a city in Spain notorious for money laundering, claiming that he paid off the apartment a day after the contract was verified. But Vulin’s account number was missing and the agency deemed the document invalid.

The thousands of euros in cash that Vulin claims his wife’s aunt lent the couple couldn’t have passed international borders without being declared to customs and without an explanation of its origins, KRIK remarked.

The law states that a maximum of €10,000 can be brought into the country without being declared – anything over that amount is a crime.

Vulin became Serbia’s Defense Minister in June 2017 after holding terms as Minister of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, and as director of the Office of Kosovo and Metohija. As a public figure, he is obliged to report his income and assets to the anti-corruption agency including the alleged money owed to his relative in Canada, according to KRIK.

“Even if it’s all true,” the director of the anti-corruption agency Tatjana Babic said in a statement, “if the apartment was in fact bought with borrowed funds, it raises the question about the couple’s ability to pay off the debt given their reported incomes.”

The anti-corruption agency brought Vulin’s case to the Prosecution for Organized Crime in Belgrade but the case was dropped in mid-August, citing insufficient evidence that the minister had committed a crime.

Statement from OCCRP on Government Attacks on

This material belongs to: OCCRP.

It has come to our attention that members of the current government have launched a smearing campaign against one of the members of our network.

In a report that was published on Monday, KRIK has raised valid questions regarding the expensive property owned by a government official. We believe that the response of Minister Aleksandar Vulin was inappropriate for his position and an attempt to divert attention from the questions he is obliged to answer. Serbian officials must provide answers, not attack those who ask.

KRIK is a part of The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) – an investigative reporting platform formed by 40 non-profit investigative centers, scores of journalists and several major regional news organizations around the globe.

Our common goal is to help the people of the world understand how organized crime and corruption resides in their countries and in their governments.

We urge the government of Ana Brnabic to focus on providing answers to the public and government officials to stop smearing those who are asking. Unfettered, independent media is a critical part of the democratic process and a integral value of the union that Serbia aspires to join.