Serbian Ex-Minister Awaits Corruption Retrial Verdict

The Higher Court in Belgrade will hand down a new verdict in the retrial of a former Serbian economy minister, Predrag Bubalo, on Friday. The retrial was ordered after his earlier acquittal of charges of abuse of office was reversed.

Bubalo was charged, in the 'Port of Belgrade' case, of enabling a private company owned by businessman Milan Beko to buy shares in the privatised port at a reduced price. Beko allegedly made 14.36 million euros from the deal.

The alleged crime was committed during the 2005 sale of state-owned shares in the port to Worldfin, a Luxembourg-based company that Beko part-owned.

At the time when the alleged crime took place, Beko was a well-known businessman and involved in a number of other high-profile privatisations of totally or partly state-owned companies. They included the C Market retail chain, Novosti, a newspaper publisher, and Keramika Kanjiza, a ceramic tile factory.

From an unofficial list of 24 so-called 'controversial privatisations' all four were later marked problematic and became the focus of criminal investigations.

Bubalo was the Serbia's economy minister from October 2004 until May 2007 in the government led by Vojislav Kostunica.

The investigation into the Port of Belgrade case started in 2013, with the indictment issued in December that year. The first trial began in July 2014, when Bubalo denied having abused his position.

Besides Bubalo, the Prosecutor's Office for Organised Crime indicted seven others who were also acquitted.

They were two directors of the Privatisation Agency, Miodrag Djordjevic and Goran Mrdja, the Director of the Capital Market Center, Aleksej Misailovic, the Director of the Shareholders Fund, Aleksandar Gracanac, the Director of the Fund's Sector...

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