Police raids in Serbia over foundation linked to Vassilev
Specialised law enforcement officers search offices of President Tomislav Nikolic's wife
13 April, 2017
Tomislav and Dragica Nikolic.
Tens of police raids have been carried out in the Serbian capital Belgrade in a case involving a foundation linked to the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev. Special operations officers and tax inspectors searched the offices of a foundation ran by Dragica Nikolic, President Tomislav Nikolic’s wife, the Belgrade publication Blic reports.
“As of last Friday, all payments and financial transactions, including donations, are suspended. Inspectors are looking for evidence of instances in which funds were transferred from the organisation’s bank accounts to personal ones,” the daily newspaper writes. Police officers are going through all the paperwork, employee salaries and donations. The audit is being performed by inspectors from the country’s Anti-Organised Crime Agency.
Several months ago, the Belgrade magazine NIN did a special investigation into the foundation’s operations. The data released later showed that Dragica Nikolic’s foundation received more than €10m in donations over the span of just three years. At the same time, the foundation’s management refuses to publish a report on the money it receives and the way it is spent. Numerous media reports referred to donations made by Tsvetan Vassilev, who has been living in Belgrade for the past nearly three years, hiding from the Bulgarian justice system, which is trying to get him extradited so he can be tried for the embezzlement of over BGN 2.2bn from CorpBank’s funds.
Nikolic dropped from the presidential race and so on 2 April Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won the elections in the first round. Tomislav Nikolic’s term officially ends on 31 May when he will pass the torch to his successor.
In the meantime, Vassilev has managed to stash away nearly BGN 700m of what he stole from the failed CorpBank, Plamen Georgiev, head of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (CIAF), told the Bulgarian National Television. He explained that some BGN 1.5bn in assets are distrained, while the lawsuit is for BGN 2.2bn, which means that the Commission has failed to locate the remaining BGN 700m. Georgiev added that CIAF officials make every effort to trace the money but are sometimes unable to find all of it and therein lies the problem. CIAF has proven a connection and frozen BGN 1.5bn in assets.
Meanwhile, it emerged that the Bulgarian authorities have asked Serbia’s law enforcement to arrest Vassilev’s wife, Antoaneta. A European-wide warrant for her arrest has been issued based on money laundering charges. According to the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office, she left the country in 2016 and is probably hiding with her husband in Belgrade.