The dubious purchase of the Multikom building in Belgrade is yet another proof that the chairman of the United Group Dragan Šolak is in a political lockstep with the leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice Dragan Đilas. Similar to the other business schemes between these two, this transaction was also masked by different intermediaries from offshore areas, with the sole aim of concealing the fact that Đilas had sold both his company and his commercial property to none other than Šolak.
The mysterious money flows
Political alliance is the main reason behind Šolak and Đilas hiding their business schemes. While it was investigating one of them – the sale of the building on Antifašističke Borbe Street – Kurir uncovered the paradox of Đilas selling this commercial property in 2017 for 4.5 million euros although his company Multikom, which was the official owner of the property, had put its value to two million euros in the company books only a year before. A question poses itself whether the obvious price difference went to something else - the funding of Đilas’s election campaign at the 2018 Belgrade election, for instance.
Although Šolak attempted to hide this purchase behind a complex web of offshore companies, Kurir’s investigations have uncovered the indubitable business and political deals struck between Šolak and Đilas. On first glance, the fact that Šolak drastically overpaid for Đilas’s building - as much as two and a half times its value - might appear unclear, even illogical. However, this very model is most often used as a secret channel of funding election campaigns. It therefore makes a lot of sense to ask whether the sale and purchase of this 1,735 square-meter building was a sort of a front for pumping money into Đilas’s campaign in early 2018.
The founder of the Centre for the Rule of Law Ivan Ninić says that a set price can be an instrument and a front for deals hidden from view.
‘Essentially, demand and supply dictate the value of commercial and residential property in practice. However, in determining the tax base, what the Tax Administration says is what counts. What should be looked into is the value the Tax Administration put the real estate to, and whether the tax base was less or more than the contract price. Real estate buyers always try to spend as little money as possible, and the set price may be both an instrument and a front for ‘schemes’ which are hidden from view. Where the price difference ultimately goes to remains a mystery. Money flows always leave an indelible trace, so even in funding election campaign the appearance of finance transparency must be maintained,’ Ninić explains.
The building on Antifašističke Borbe Street in Belgrade was recorded in Multikom Group‘s balance sheet as an investment property, i.e. a property for hire, whose value stood at two million euros. Under the current laws and regulations, a company must annually estimate the market value of investment properties and adjust this value in its balance sheet. This estimate notwithstanding, Đilas sold the building to Šolak, i.e. to the company Techill Plaza, in the following year for 4.5 million euros. Although Šolak states that the new value estimate was made during the purchase of the building, a question can be posed regarding how it was possible for the new estimate to hike up the value of the property to such an extent in only the space of a year. This sort of price difference cannot be explained by a real estate market disturbance either, as the experts point out there simply was none. Šolak became the owner of the building on Antifašističke Borbe Street in October 2017 – one year before the United Group signed off on the purchase of Direct Media. Kurir has already reported on the purchase of Direct Media and exposed the entire scheme involving multiple companies and associated persons, demonstrating that the sale of Đilas’s company to Šolak, i.e. the United Group, was behind it all, as far back as 2014. Kurir sent the questions about the dubious transactions to the United Group and Dragan Đilas, but we have not received any answers yet.
The front owners scheme
The same players for shady dealings
The formal buyer of the Multikom Group building on Antifašističke Borbe Street in Novi Beograd was the company Techill Plaza, owned by the Swiss company Dansav Investments, and with the Swiss lawyer Wolfram Andreas Kuoni in its management – an associate of Šolak’s who participated in the purchase of Direct Media. Kuoni is also a member of the management board of United Media Networking AG from Switzerland. Techill Plaza was registered in 2012 at the same address at which the company SBB is registered as part of the United Group. Đilas denied earlier the media reports about him selling the building to Šolak’s company.