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News 06 Nov 17

Paradise Papers Reveal Serbian Minister’s Giant Fortune

International 'Paradise Papers' investigation shows that a pro-Russian Minister, Nenad Popovic, is probably the richest politician in Serbia, with a fortune worth at least 75 million US dollars.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Minister Nenad Popovic. Photo: Beta/Milos Miskov

Documents from the so-called Paradise Papers, leaked last year, show that Serbia’s Minister for Innovation and Technological Development, Nenad Popovic, has a fortune of least 75 million US dollars, the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, KRIK, revealed on Monday.

"The leaked documents give a detailed insight into ... Popovic’s business empire and wealth," said KRIK, which cooperated with OCCRP and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ, on the international Paradise Papers project.

According to KRIK, Popovic’s property assets are worth at least 75 million US dollars, but their market value is believed to be more than 100 million US dollars, making him the richest politician in Serbia.

Popovic has denied that any of his companies are registered in the off-shore tax havens mentioned in the Paradise Papers investigation, claiming they are all registered in Russia and Europe.

"Most importantly, as a state official, I declared [ownership of] all my companies to the Anti-Corruption Agency," Popovic said, adding that he also reported all the property he gained before becoming Minister.

In his most recent report to Serbia's Anti-Corruption Agency from July 2017, Popovic listed ownership of 23 companies, land, five apartments and ten garage spaces, but their worth is not publicly available on the agency’s website.

Popovic, who heads the Serbian People’s Party and has business interests in Russia, is strongly pro-Russian and hostile to migrants, having called for a border wall to be built to keep refugees out.

"After becoming deputy speaker of parliament, Popovic came to the idea of reorganizing his wealth through a complex network of off-shore companies that would be controlled by a trust from Hong Kong and two companies from the Isle of Man," according to KRIK.

However, the Appleby Law Firm which Popovic sought to hire conducted an investigation and discovered various controversies surrounding his businesses, especially those in Russia, KRIK said.

The investigative outlet has announced that it will reveal more details later this week.

ICIJ’s global Paradise Papers investigation reveals offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Britain's Queen Elizabeth, and 13 advisers, major donors and members of US President Donald Trump’s administration.

It also exposes the tax engineering of more than 100 multinational corporations, including Apple, Nike and Botox-maker Allergan, according to ICIJ.

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