By Filip Rudic
Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin has come under fire after saying he cannot source the origin of the 205,000 euros he used to buy real estate because he brought the money from Canada in installments – so that he would not have to declare it to customs.
By law, no more than 10,000 euros may be bought into Serbia without submission of a declaration to customs.
Internet users pointed out that Vulin must have made some 23 trips to Canada and back, thereby spending a small fortune on plane tickets.
“Vulin has to to catch the plane to Canada again”, says one tweet.
Vulin made his claim on Thursday, answering questions from a journalist from Serbia’s Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, KRIK.
The minister faced queries after KRIK published a report saying he bought an apartment in Belgrade under suspicious circumstances with money that he claimed he had borrowed from his wife’s aunt in Canada.
Prosecutors have dismissed allegations of any wrongdoing, saying he duly reported the purchase.
But Nemanja Nenadic, from the watchdog Transparency Serbia, said that the big question was which information the prosecution offices had been checking.
“Did they conduct the check-ups that would confirm Vulin’s claims? This is crucial to determining if any crime or misdemeanor was committed,” Nenadic told BIRN.
The basic prosecutor’s office said that Vulin had duly reported his ownership of the apartment to the country’s anti-corruption agency, and so no crime was committed.
However, Nenadic urged the prosecutors to release more information on their investigations.
“There is a fellony of not reporting property [to the anti-corruption agency], but it also relates to other information, such as the origin of the property,” Nenadic said, adding that it remains unclear whether the prosecutors had checked this information as well.
KRIK’s claim that Vulin could not explain the origin of the money to the agency angered the minister’s political party, the Socialist Movement, which then accused KRIK editor Stevan Dojcinovic of being a “drug addict”.
According to KRIK, Vulin initially claimed he bought the apartment in 2012 after selling another apartment in Novi Sad. However, after it was revealed that the first flat sold for only 38,000 euros, he then said he got the cash from his wife’s aunt.
Vulin was made Defence Minister in June.