Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and declared within a week that “everything in the Antonov case is clear as a tear,” but information coming from Serbia allows us to conclude that ghost companies and businessmen prosecuted for arms smuggling.
Failure to notify the Greek authorities about the nature of the cargo was just the tip of the iceberg, the publication believes. cathimerini.
The plane belonged to the Ukrainian transport company Meridian Air Cargo. It flew out last Saturday evening from the Serbian city of Nis with 11.5 tons of mines to mortars and (according to the official point of view) was heading for Bangladesh. While flying in the Greek FIR, it encountered a mechanical problem and veered off course to make an emergency landing at Kavala Airport, but ended up crashing in a field near the village of Antifilippi.
On Sunday morning, Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic held a press conference announcing that the arms shipment consisted of training and lighting mines for the government of Bangladesh. The above was confirmed by a representative of the armed forces of the Asian country, and the country’s foreign minister indicated that Bangladesh often purchases military equipment from Serbia.
However, the shells were supplied not through the State Export Company (SDPR), as reportedly so far, and through a Serbian company under the trademark “Valir”. Information and reports in the Serbian press link this company to businessman Slobodan Tesic, who was involved in arms smuggling.
In 2003, the UN imposed sanctions against him, accusing him of supplying arms to the former Liberian president, warlord Charles Taylor, in violation of the embargo. Sanctions against Tešić have also been imposed since 2017 by the US Treasury Department, calling him “one of the largest arms and ammunition dealers in the Balkans.” A warrant for his arrest is still pending by the Tunisian authorities for money laundering and corruption.
Valir connection with Tesich
But how is Valir related to Slobodan Tesic? The company was reportedly established on December 20, 2019, just 11 days after the US imposed new sanctions on Tesic and ten other associates. The founder and director of Valir was the then 27-year-old Stefan Kupkovic. The young man also appeared as a co-founder of another company called Elvante ltd, along with Goran Andrić, who was sanctioned by the US as one of Tešić’s most important associates. In addition, Elvante ltd announces the establishment of a joint headquarters with Lusor, in which another colleague of Tesic, originally from Yemen, participates.
The information, which was discovered by the Balkan investigative journalism groups (OCCRP and KRIK) and reprinted by the Serbian media, says that this businessman maintains a privileged relationship with the country’s political leadership. They also write that, thanks to his connections, he managed to get off the UN sanctions list and become the owner of a diplomatic passport.
Another interesting fact is revealed by the financial results tables of Valir: it was founded with a capital of 0.85 euros and had a turnover of 55 million in 2021.
But the Ukrainian company Meridian Air Cargo, which owned the fatal Antonov, is also shrouded in mystery. Registered headquarters on Darvina Street in Kyiv, but as a result of an audit conducted by “K” with the help of a journalist from the capital of Ukraine, it turned out that there is only one nail salon and a company in which the legal address is supposed to be located in the building. The spokesman, when asked about it, said that because of the war, employees are working from home.
Reading without answer
According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, the Serbian government did not respond to a letter of protest for not notifying the Greek authorities about the danger of the cargo. However, at the crash site, Armed Forces (TENX) officers identified 60mm and 82mm training and illuminating mortar rounds. At the same time, the possibility that high-explosive mortar ammunition was also in the cargo remains open. Moreover, the latter scenario may respond to objections raised during the week by sources in Serbia and former employees of the state arms export company.
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