Serbian Finance Minister Sinisa Mali owned 24 apartments on the Bulgarian Black sea coast, according to documents uncovered in the new Pandora Paper case of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Mali has been a minister since May 2018, and prior to that it had a four-year term as mayor of Belgrade (2014-2018). He is one of the country’s leading political actors and is close to President Alexander Vucic.
In 2015, Mali categorically denied the information that there were 24 luxury properties on the Bulgarian coast, in the complex “St. Nicholas” – with a total value of $ 6.1 million. However, the newly discovered documents prove it. At the time, the mayor of the Serbian capital claimed that he actually owned an apartment, but was on the records of 23 other properties because he was helping a client with a business transaction. In addition to being angry with the media for this information, during a press conference, Mali threw the gauntlet at journalists: “If you prove it, I will give you the keys to the apartments.“
The scandal then erupted because Sinisha Mali had no income to justify such properties. His annual civil servant salary 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 had 24 apartments as the 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 which 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 quickly acquired the rest. Mali is listed as a director of the two companies in the Virgin Islands, which is why journalists have already managed to link his name to the case. However, it was not clear who owned these businesses and therefore the properties.
The new investigation proves that Mali was in fact their sole owner.
Sinisha Mali has not commented on the new revelations. The fate of all the apartments is not clear. Six of them were reportedly seized and confiscated by the Bulgarian authorities and to have carried out the transactions related to these goods through the Mali lawyer.
Pandora Papers reaches over 330 politicians from 91 countries. Among them, two Bulgarian politicians, and their names have yet to be announced.