Serbia’s top tycoon accused of tax evasion
BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro – Tax authorities filed charges Monday against Serbia’s millionaire businessman Sreten Karic and another former top manager of Serbia’s main wireless carrier, Mobtel, for alleged tax evasion.Mobtel’s former director general, Sreten Karic, and chief officer, Olga Zilovic, stand accused of a “fraudulent” trade in 2003 in Belgrade real estate – 79 luxury apartments – “falsely presented” in company records as company purchase, then resold to Karic’s relatives and company employees at a fraction of the price.The alleged “misrepresentation and manipulation” with the real estate worth some 13 million euros ($15.8 million) caused financial loss for Mobtel and deprived some shareholders of profit, while it also led Karic, Zilovic and others to dodge property tax of about 2.8 million euros ($3.4 million), according to the charges.There was no immediate comment from Karic and Zilovic, who could face up to eight years in prison if convicted. Their lawyers were not immediately available for comment.The accusations, however, come in the wake of a wider controversy surrounding Mobtel and its founders, the Karic family clan led by Bogoljub Karic – Sreten’s brother and Serbia’s richest tycoon.Bogoljub Karic co-founded Mobtel with Serbia’s state-run telephone company, but sold his stake in May and entered politics, challenging the government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.Meanwhile, the government has revoked Mobtel’s license because of an allegedly clandestine and illegal deal in 2003 with a Kosovo company.Also Monday, Serbia’s state-run television reported that three other former Mobtel managers had been detained over other, unspecified irregularities in the company. Police declined to confirm the report, saying only that an official statement was being prepared.
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