A former head of Belgrade’s Airport Nikola Tesla (ANT) — identified only by the initials V. R. — has been arrested as part of a corruption investigation, the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MUP) announced on December 4. The former chief of Serbia’s largest airport is suspected of abusing their position between March 2013 and April 2014, causing damages of over €41,000 to the company.
V. R. was arrested alongside another 56 people also suspected of corruption. According to the MUP, the arrests are part of a series of separate actions all aimed at combatting crime and corruption linked to abuse of positions within state institutions.
V. R.’s arrest came at an unfortunate time since Serbia is in the process of selecting an investor for the 25-year concession to manage and develop state-owned ANT, which has already attracted bids from numerous international airport operators. The concession is expected to bring in a €350mn-€400mn advance payment and a further €10mn-€11mn every year.
MUP says that there are grounds to suspect that V. R. broke the law on public procurement when buying disaster recovery infrastructure in 2013. The ministry points to discrepancies between the price paid to its contractor and the market price, and says an unnamed Belgrade-based company benefitted from the deal.
Alongside V. R., police also arrested four police officers, the former bankruptcy manager of Zastava Kovacnica, and several employees of Serbian Railways, state-owned Postanska Stedionica Bank's branch in Vrsac, Italian Intesa Bank's Pancevo branch, and Jugobanka-JU Bank AD Kosovska Mitrovica, as well as owners and managers of several other companies.
The actions was conducted in towns throughout the country — Belgrade, Novi Sad, Pancevo, Smederevo, Zajecar, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Krusevac, Prokuplje, Pirot and Novi Pazar.
Those arrested are suspected of causing total damages of over €8.4mn to central and local government budgets and to other companies and individuals.
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