Serbia: Powerful Private Media Company “Pink” Supported by State with more than €10 mil

Illustration: Đorđe Matić

Serbian Export Credit and Insurance Agency (AOFI) granted Pink international company, broadcaster of TV Pink, a new €3.2 million in March 2017, but refuses to supply details on the loan. Since 2014, the company owned by Željko Mitrović received more than €10 million as guarantees and loans from this state agency.

By Anđela Milivojević, Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS)

Last year, Pink international company, owned by Željko Mitrović, received somewhat more than €3.2 million (402,705,225 million dinars) from the state-owned Export Credit and Insurance Agency(AOFI), as indicated in documents of the Ministry of Finance Treasury Administration obtained by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS).

Payment was made on the account of Pink international company on 22 March 2017, while a short-term loan was stated as the grounds of payment.

Data from the Treasury Administration does not lead to conclusion as to the purpose for which AOFI granted the loan, what it is that Pink exports exactly, and why the state agency decided to support export activities of this privately owned company. It is also not clear whether this is the total amount of the loan.

AOFI refused to supply more information on the assistance extended to Pink.

This is not the first time Pink has received money from AOFI; CINS has already written about it. Documents indicate that since 2014 Željko Mitrović’s company has been aided by AOFI with almost €10.5 million. Information on earlier payments was also never submitted to CINS journalists.

Public money, clandestine operations

AOFI is the official export credit agency of the Republic of Serbia, and was established with the aim to help domestic companies extending insurance and financing of export. In practice, this agency extends soft loans under conditions less restrictive than those of commercial banks, with lower interest rates.

It was in the course of his guest appearance at TV Pink in April 2016 that Dejan Vukotić, AOFI General Manager, said that the agency’s budget for exporters amounts to three million dinars (about €24.3 million) and that there are no limitations as to the amount of loan to be granted. When asked whether it means that someone may apply for a €3 million loan, he said that this would be possible, but that the idea of entrepreneurship implies financing of smaller projects.

CINS tried to get more information on the €3.2 million loan granted to Pink; however, sources from AOFI replied that they could not respond to the request to gain access to information of public importance with the explanation that the requested documents on the loan constituted a business secret.

Beside this, CINS filed a request to the Tax administration of the Ministry of finance in relation to data on tax debts of Pink international company from 2017; in 2014, the company was one of the major tax debtors, while one of the conditions to be granted a loan by AOFI is that the company has no tax debts.

The Tax administration rejected the request filed by CINS in the similar manner as AOFI with the explanation that the data on how much tax money Pink international company owes is an official secret.

Before the publishing of this text, neither Željko Mitrović, owner of Pink, nor AOFI persons-in-charge have responded to the questions asked by CINS journalists.

According to the information CINS obtained on earlier operations of Pink and AOFI, in March 2016 Pink was paid more than €3.5 million, while the payment was booked under the code “short-term loans”. Before this payment, in February, Pinkreceived the amount of about €9,300 under the code “other loans”.

In the period from March to December 2015, Pink was paid more than €3.6 million as short-term loans.

Pink had also been aided by AOFI a year before, in 2014, when it was paid about €120,000, also as short-term loan. In the same year, AOFI issued Pink a guarantee up to the amount of €2.5 million to the benefit of AIK banka, which practically means that the state guaranteed for operations of Pink.

In the course of 2014, Pink was one of the major tax debtors enlisted by the Tax Administration. At the moment of concluding the contract on guarantee, deferred payment of a part of the debt had still not been granted, so it remains unclear how this company fulfilled the AOFI request that its clients should not have any tax\ debts.

Government ignores Commissioner for almost two years

Since December 2015, CINS has been trying to get documents from AOFI in relation to Pink as well as information on their other clients through request for access to information of public importance. AOFI refused to reply with the justification that the part relating to Pink comprises a business secret.

Despite the fact that the Commissioner for access to information of public importance and protection of personal data Rodoljub Šabić passed a decision in which he ordered AOFI to submit the requested documents, the agency refused to do as ordered. The Commissioner pronounced two fines against the agency at the total amount of 200,000 dinars (approx. 1.700 €).

As the last measure, back in May 2016, the Commissioner requested Serbian Government to facilitate publication of the data on contracts concluded between AOFI and Pink Company. As the Government has not acted upon this request to the present date, the conditions under which aid was granted and the names of AOFI clients are still concealed from the public eye.


This project is financed by the European Union through the small grant project “Protection of media freedom and freedom of expression in the Western Balkans” implemented by the Croatian Association of Journalists within the regional project Regional platform for advocacy of media freedoms and safety of journalists in the Western Balkans, six journalists’ associations from the region – Independent association of journalists of Serbia, (NUNS),Association of BH journalists, Croatian Association of journalists, Association of journalists of Kosovo, Association of journalists of Macedonia, and Media Trade union of Montenegro

  


The story was republished from the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) with permission. The headline was changed in agreement with the CINS editors. 

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