Court freezes Port of Belgrade assets

BELGRADE -- The Higher Court in Belgrade issued a temporary order prohibiting businessman Milan Beko’s Worldfin company from managing or selling Port of Belgrade assets.

Milan Beko (FoNet, file)
Milan Beko (FoNet, file)

The decision should be in effect until the court proceeding between the city of Belgrade and the Port of Belgrade owner over more than 100 hectares of land is completed.

Higher Court in Belgrade Spokeswoman Dušica Ristić told B92 that preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 29.

The parties involved have 15 days to file appeals.

Port of Belgrade Spokeswoman Tijana Munišić has stated that the company did not receive the Higher Court’s decision and that she therefore cannot comment on it.

“We cannot comment on the Higher Court’s decision which has not been submitted to us like it has to the other party in the proceeding,” she told Beta news agency and added that the Port of Belgrade representatives had learned about it from the media.

The temporary ban applies to disposal and alienation of real estate, i.e. the land that the Port of Belgrade is located on and the court made such a decision due to possibility that it could be sold.

According to the court’s decision, the city of Belgrade as a plaintiff could suffer irreparable damage if the Port of Belgrade owner sells the land before the proceeding ends, especially if the city of Belgrade wins the case.

City of Belgrade legal counsel Strahinja Sekulić told B92 that he was convinced that the city had evidence that would show that the contested land belonged to it.

The sale of the Port of Belgrade has been a subject of numerous analyses and doubts for years. The Anti-Corruption Council led by Verica Barać last year filed criminal charges against 17 persons, including Beko and former Agriculture Minister Predrag Bubalo for abuse of office during privatization of the Port of Belgrade in 2005.

The Council submitted a report on the sale of the Port of Belgrade to the government and the Shareholder Fund in 2008 which, among other things, points out that the sale of the company was accompanied by numerous frauds and that the state bodies acted in the interest of the country’s richest people.

The Anti-Corruption Council stressed that the competent institutions disregarded laws and procedure and approved Luxembourg-based Worldfin company to take over more than 93 percent of the Port of Belgrade shares in September 2005.

The company is registered at the same address as Novafin company owned by Beko, which bought C Market retail chain on behalf of Delta owner Miroslav Mišković about the same time, the Council claims. They bought the shares at a price two times lower than the actual one and the state therefore lost at least EUR 21bn, the Anti-Corruption Council pointed out in its report in 2008.

B92's investigative program Insajder (Insider) looked into the sale of the Port of Belgrade, which incurred damages to both the state and the city of Belgrade.