Bosnia-Slovenia money laundering racket busted
Law enforcement authorities in Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina conducted a series of house searches at dozens of locations on 21 March on suspicion of a money laundering racket involving shell companies that allegedly netted the suspects more than €5 million.
In Slovenia, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), joined by crime investigators from the country's all police departments, searched 58 residential and commercial premises in the areas of Ljubljana, Kranj, Koper and Nova Gorica.
The General Police Administration said the searches were related to suspected 21 counts of abuse of office or trust in business activity, 21 counts of money laundering and one count of racketeering.
The authorities suspect the crimes of abuse of office or trust were committed to the injury of several businesses from across Slovenia.
Thirty-six persons are suspected of committing those crimes with investigative measures conducted in connection to 42 individuals and 36 legal entities. One individual has been apprehended, unofficially a woman. The police said the suspects allegedly made more than €5 million in illegal gains.
The Slovenian police confirmed Bosnian media reports that house searches were simultaneously conducted at 13 locations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The online edition of the newspaper Dnevni Avaz reported that officers of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) conducted searches at commercial and residential premises in Sarajevo and Zenica as part of an international operation codenamed ATM.
The report said the SIPA and the Bosnian prosecution service, the Slovenian specialised public prosecution service and the police had been working on the case since February 2022.
The Slovenian police said it had formed a specialised investigation team with the Slovenian Financial Administration and the Office for Money Laundering Prevention as well as a joint investigative group with the Bosnian law enforcement authorities to investigate the matter.
The newspaper Oslobođenje reported online that the investigators were looking into money transfers from Slovenia to Bosnia and back disguised as allegedly fictitious construction and other deals.
According to the Slovenian news portal N1, shell companies in Bosnia issued bogus invoices for market research and fictitious supplies to companies in Slovenia before the money came back to Slovenia in cash. The cash was then allegedly withdrawn from ATMs in Slovenia by means of Bosnian bank cards.
The portal says the money laundering racket was masterminded in Slovenia.
The news portal Necenzurirano named Milan Mandarić, the former owner of the Ljubljana football club Olimpija, as one of the suspects, but Mandarić denied his involvement for the news portal Siol.
Necenzurirano said it was not clear why Mandarić was being investigated, but said FC Olimpija transferred €30,500 to the Bosnian account of the Slovenian company Leka in 2018.
Leka has been in receivership for three years. Before that it received several hundred thousand euros in transfers from various Slovenian companies which four persons from Slovenia withdrew in cash, the portal writes.
Necenzurirano also named Mihael Strmljan, the owner of Aktiva group, as a person under investigation. The company allegedly transferred money to Lumnia, a Slovenian company run by Bosnian citizen Samir Ićanović.
The portal said Ićanović's other Slovenian company Prekopal had also been receiving money in Bosnia from other companies, while transferring money there from its account in Slovenia.
Several construction companies are said to be under investigation, including V3, which allegedly transferred almost a million euros to Lumnia's Bosnian bank account, Necenzurirano reported.
In Slovenia, abuse of office carries between one and eight years in prison, money laundering up to eight years and racketeering between three months and eight years in prison.