Pandora Papers: Serbian Minister Owns 24 Apartments on Bulgarian Black Sea Coast
Serbian Finance Minister Sinisa Mali owned 24 apartments on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, according to documents uncovered in the new Pandora Paper affair of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Mali has been a minister since May 2018, and before that he had a four-year term as mayor of Belgrade (2014-2018). He is among the country's prominent political players and is close to President Alexander Vucic.
In 2015, Mali categorically denied the information that there are 24 luxury properties on the Bulgarian coast, in the complex "St. Nicholas" - worth a total of 6.1 million dollars. However, the newly discovered documents prove it. At the time, the mayor of the Serbian capital claimed that he actually had an apartment, but appeared in the files of the other 23 properties because he was helping a client in a commercial transaction. Apart from being angry with the media for this information, at a press conference Mali threw the glove at the reporters: "If you prove it, I'll give you the keys to the apartments."
The scandal then arose because Sinisha Mali had no income to justify such properties. His annual salary as a civil servant has never exceeded 34,000 euros. Vucic, in turn, called the allegations against his longtime ally false.
An international investigation by Pandora Papers now proves that Mali owned 24 apartments as a director of two offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands - Brigham Holding & Finance Inc. and Etham Invest & Finance Corp. The politician was a client of Trident Trust - founder of the other two offshore companies.
What is the scheme?
Trident Trustesta has founded two companies in the British Virgin Islands that are a popular offshore destination: Brigham Holding & Finance Inc. and Etham Invest & Finance Corp. These two companies bought two Bulgarian companies, Erma 11 and Erul 11, which already own most of the apartments in question and soon acquired the rest. Mali is listed as a director of the two Virgin Islands companies, which is why journalists have previously managed to link his name to the affair. However, it was not clear who owned these companies and therefore the properties.
The new investigation proves that Mali was in fact their sole owner.
Sinisha Mali did not comment on the new revelations. The fate of all the apartments is not clear. Six of them are known to have been seized and confiscated by the Bulgarian authorities and to have carried out transactions related to these properties through lawyer Mali.
Pandora Papers affects more than 330 politicians from 91 countries. Among them are two Bulgarian politicians, and their names have not been announced yet.
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