The end owner of the companies based in the British Virgin Islands, from which funds were paid to Direct Media, as well as the origin of the funds, remain unknown to the general public.
The business collaboration between the chairman of the United Group Dragan Šolak and the president of the Party of Freedom and Justice Dragan Đilas is a closely guarded secret because this duo has developed an entire scheme of financial machinations allowing them to make millions for years.
Kurir uncovers new details of their business and exposes the hidden operations of Šolak and Đilas, demonstrating that their political and business alliance is beyond doubt, as well as that it is worth tens of millions of euros.
Šolak and Đilas tried to put pressure on Kurir every which way with the intention of preventing us from publishing that the two of them have business ties. Despite the especially intense attacks of the media wing of their business lobby, Kurir will continue to expose the business schemes of Šolak and Đilas, pledging to continue investigating all their shady business ventures with even more audacity.
The sale of Direct Media, a company once owned by Đilas, which ended up in the hands of Šolak’s United Media after some incredible paperwork stunts, can serve as an illustrative example of how these two businessmen increase their wealth. Once the intentionally complicated mechanism of sales and purchases is taken apart and the fake screws removed, a clear picture emerges of Šolak purchasing Direct Media from Đilas’s Multikom Group back in 2014.
The Bulgarian frontThe controversial Bulgarian businessman Kresimir Gergov was used as a front for this purchase as a formal buyer of Direct Media. In actuality, the company was already in the hands of Šolak and his main operative Dragana Kostić (Dragana Jovanović Džaril). Her ties to Šolak are evident at the Diplomatic Golf Club, where she worked as a legal representative alongside Gordana Šolak, the wife of the above businessman. Further, Dragana Kostić sits on the managerial board of Golf Club Belgrade, which has Dragan Šolak as the legal representative and Šolak’s wife as the secretary.
The role of Dragana Kostić in the purchase of Direct Media is essential. As a member of the Sierra Investment Group, based in the British Virgin Islands, she lent around 9.5 million euros to the company Stichting Administratiekantoor CEE Media, where Gergov served as the CEO, for the purposes of purchasing a share in Multikom Group. What is interesting is that that amount was transferred to the Multikom account on the same day.
One Wolfram Andreas Kuoni, a lawyer from Switzerland, did the same thing through Kuoni Rechtsanwälte AG, one of his 13 companies registered in Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. He paid around 8.2 million euros into the account of Stichting Administratiekantoor CEE Media for the purposes of purchasing a share in Multikom. The fact that he is on the managerial board of United Media Network AG from Switzerland demonstrates that Kuoni is indubitably Šolak’s henchperson, as is Dragana Kostić.
It is quite telling that the two loans above (one in the amount of around 9.5 million, and the other in the amount of around 8.2 million euros) match the sum of around 17.7 million euros used to purchase Direct Media, as the Serbian media report. The persistent hiding of the actual buyers and sellers poses many questions. One such question would be, is the amount that Đilas received for Direct Media the entire sum that he had obtained; another question could be, what is the actual value of the company at the time of the sale.
In July 2015, Gergov transferred the ownership in Direct Media free of charge to the company Ascanius Netherlands B.V, whose owners were hidden behind eight companies registered at multiple offshore locations: The Netherlands, Luxembourg, The British Virgin Islands, Samoa, and Hong Kong. The last in the succession of companies was Hoche Partners Private Equity Investors Sarl from Luxembourg, which was re-registered in early 2014 to the British Virgin Islands. Incidentally, it is interesting that the end owner of the companies from the British Virgin Islands, from which the money was paid to Direct Media, as well as the origin of the money, remain unknown to the general public.
The lawyer Wolfram Andreas Kuoni was a key player in another secret financial transaction between Šolak and Đilas. It was the purchase of the building owned by Đilas’s Multikom Group. Šolak became the owner of the building located on Antifašističke Borbe Street on 31 October 2017 – therefore, before he officially purchased Direct Media. It cost him around 4.5 million euros, and the purchase was carried out via Deutsche Bank. The formal buyer was the company Techill Plaza, associated with DanSav Investments from Switzerland, which has the lawyer Kuoni in its management. Techill Plaza DOO was founded in 2012 and registered at the same address as the company SBB (19 Bulevar Peka Dapčevića in Belgrade).
Although Đilas keeps publicly denying that he sold the building to Šolak and that the two of them have business ties, Kurir’s investigation has revealed that that was a lie. When purposefully complicated transactions between these two are brought to light in this way, it becomes clear that the aim is non-transparent business practices.
The United Group’s Record Debt A Three-Billion Euro Debt
Kurir revealed in its recently published comprehensive investigation the reasons behind the continued attacks of the media owned by the United Group against Telekom, as well as the incessant negative reporting on this company. As we have discovered, the United Group had a record debt of three billion euros early this year, as well as a 60 million euros worth of loss in the previous year.
Marko Matić: ‘Đilas Never Provided Evidence of Taxes Paid.’
The investigative journalist Marko Matić calls attention to the fact related to the sale of Direct Media – Đilas never provided evidence of what he had paid taxes for and in what amount. ‘The numerous pieces of evidence confirming the suspicions that Đilas and Šolak had been hiding for a few years the traces of the sale of Direct Media indicate that there were ulterior illegal motives behind this transaction. The very fact that Đilas sold his company to a hidden owner from a tax haven, with the company ending up in the hands of Dragan Šolak, reveals the hidden business ties of the two tycoons and the sidestepping of the Serbian tax laws. Although Đilas claims that he has paid his state-levied taxes, he has never produced a document showing what he paid his taxes for and in what amount. This becomes more apparent as the company in question rose through the ranks at a time when he was in power and held an important public office,’ Matić remarked.
Đilas and Šolak Strike at Kurir Again They want to stop us, but we will continue exposing you.
Dragan Đilas and Dragan Šolak strike at Kurir again, through Đilas’s vice-president Marinika Tepić. As a part of the political wing of the business lobby headed by Đilas and the chairman of the United Group, Tepić has been attacking our editorial team with the aim of scaring us and putting pressure on us to stop writing about all the shady business deals of this lobby. It seems that all that Tepić does recently is solely for the benefit of this business lobby. However, our message is clear: we are not afraid, and we will not stop writing about all your shady business ventures. Such attacks will only provide additional motivation for us to continue investigating the scandals and revealing and publishing the truth. We will continue to zealously expose all your machinations and the background to the attack against Kurir and Telekom, which is a direct market competitor to the United Group as a strong domestic company.
Public Broadcaster Calls for Debate Žeželj Accepts, Šolak Refuses to Appear on RTS.
The president of Mondo Inc Igor Žeželj has accepted to appear on the television show Oko, broadcast on the Radio Television of Serbia. However, as the RTS has announced, the chairman of the United Group Dragan Šolak has declined the invitation. ‘In order to make the public aware of the actual state of affairs in media content production, the RTS has invited the leading persons of the two biggest companies involved in this activity. The reason for this conversation is the increasingly frequent public appearances of politicians in power and those in the opposition at which they make various accusations related to this line of business, which in turn leaves the Serbian public with an impression that there is a conflict in Serbia between the manufacturers and distributors of media content – a situation which is not in the best interest of the citizens,’ RTS has said. Žeželj said that he had accepted the invitation to talk about the subject although, as he points out, he rarely appears in the media. ‘I believe that an exchange of views and ideas with Mr Šolak would contribute to understanding the broad picture and the trends in the development of the media markets in Serbia and the region,’ Žeželj said in a statement.
The Leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice Uses Tricks and Demagoguery
Đilas calls Telekom chief officers the Serbian Progressive Party management, and yet he was OK with them when he was making millions working with Telekom.
The president of the Party of Freedom and Justice Dragan Đilas, who is heading a business lobby with the chairman of the United Group Dragan Šolak, is using trickery and classic demagoguery again. Đilas’s vice-president Marinika Tepić called the top officers of Telekom the ‘Serbian Progressive Party management’. However, she and her bosses fail to mention that this management – headed by the CEO Predrag Ćulibrk, Vladimir Lučić, and Marko Lopičić – has not changed since the time when Đilas was in power and made millions for himself and his companies in business dealings with this company. He earned as much as 30 million euros in these lucrative deals. Therefore, Dragan Đilas did not mind this very management while he was gaining enormous material wealth from Telekom. But now, when he can no longer make profits doing business with this company, he calls the people that he had worked with for years the people of this administration. The leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice has one again clearly shown that using demagoguery and lies is his favourite tool in politics.
The Kurir Editorial Staff