Slovenian money-laundering affair of exceptional dimensions broke out just a few days ago, and involves Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB), the biggest Slovenian state-owned bank. The affair was discovered by coincidence during the work of the parliamentary inquiry Commission for Identifying Abuses in the Banking System and the parliamentary Commission for Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services. Between 2008 and 2010, when the Slovenian government was led by Borut Pahor (S&D), the NLB laundered just short of a billion (!) US dollars. The money was mainly coming from the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) via Iraj Farrokhzadeh - proxy of the Iranian state bank. At the time, the Iranian bank was blacklisted as it was subject to restrictive measures (the embargo) on the international market.
The respective bank is specifically mentioned in the Regulation of the EU Council of 26 July 2010 No. 668/2010 implementing Article 7 (2) of Regulation (EC) No. 423/2007 concerning restrictive measures against Iran. It states that the bank is connected to Iran’s programmes of proliferation concern; that it is also connected to payments related to weapons of mass destruction; that provides financial services and facilitates ongoing procurement activities of front companies associated with subjects within the framework of the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
The money was laundered by transferring “smaller” sums to more than nine thousand selected accounts in different countries around the world, including to the US and tax havens. There is a strong suspicion that after the commissions on the black market were paid, money also reached the terrorist organizations under the influence of the Iranian regime.
It is Interesting that Mr Iraj Farrokhzadeh, who has officially been on the Interpol’s most-wanted list since 2006, had opened his accounts at the state-owned NLB on 12 December 2008, just a few days after the new Social Democratic government was sworn in, replacing the successful center-right Janša's government. Let us recall that just a few weeks before the elections, the made-up Patria affair had been set up by the Slovenian left, which was later annulled by all courts. Nonetheless, it strongly influenced the outcome of the Slovenian parliamentary elections in autumn 2008.
The latest scandal highlights a key question of political responsibility of then left and extreme left political figures, such as Danilo Türk, President of Slovenia; Borut Pahor, Prime Minister (currently the President of Slovenia); France Križanič, Minister of Finance; Katarina Kresal, Minister of Interior; Aleš Zalar, Minister of Justice, Samuel Žbogar, Minister of Foreign Affairs (currently the head of the Delegation of the EU to Macedonia) as well as Andrej Plausteiner, President of Office for Money-Laundering Prevention. Leadership of the bank and the banking sector at that time were: Marjan Kramar, Draško Veselinovič, Matej Narat, Miran Vičič and Božo Jašovič. According to media, there are strong indications that this criminal act was under the strict supervision of the still influential networks of old communist secret service (UDBA).
Of course, primarily the question is not whether the Slovenian politicians knew about the money laundering or not - after all, a billion dollars is not that easy to hide - but why they allowed such highly illegal operation to be carried out by people who were “old acquaintances” of Interpol. Swiss authorities rightfully closed Mr Farrokhzadeh’s UBS bank accounts in autumn 2008. A few months later, Slovenian NLB did not see any obstacles in opening his accounts and transferring huge sums of money to and from those accounts. From the perspective of (in)security, the scandal can have disastrous consequences.
Nine years after the criminal activities started in Slovenia, the competent authorities still have not begun with any investigative activities. While the British, French and Italian investigating authorities all investigated Slovenian money-laundering scheme, the Slovenian investigating counterparts remained uncooperative. The reason for this lies in the fact that the authorities are interconnected with the political option, which is under the influence of the same networks that supervised the money-laundering scheme.
Between 2009 and 2010 more than 400 transactions from NLB to other banks all over the world were blocked by money laundering prevention offices all around the world, but that didn’t stop NLB to continue with shady laundering transactions. Slovenian Office for prevention of money laundering, an integral part of the Ministry of Finance – led by then minister Franc Križanič, received a notice of the suspicious transactions at the very beginning of the criminal activities, but decided to ignore it and protected the transactions for the next two years. Adding salt to injury were also the generous exemptions of transaction commissions that NLB granted to Mr Farrokhzadeh. He was doing “business” in the perfect environment with full protection and free of charge.
Slovenian authorities insist on protecting the laundering scheme. Just a few days ago Slovenian police issued a statement saying that there was no criminal activity detected with transactions. The statement is not surprising to many investigative experts, who say that networks around Slovenian S&D got at least 300 million USD transferred to tax havens around the world by protecting the scheme. Even the Slovenian mainstream media is blocking this scandal - one of the biggest in Slovenian history.
The Slovenian Democratic Party will use all means for a thorough investigation to be carried out. The investigation has to determine the political and personal responsibility of the holders of public functions and, if possible, to reduce the terrorist threat, which consequently exists because of this unimaginable criminal act, in which Slovenian politicians, civil servants and bankers are involved. SDS also expects the immediate reaction of the relevant European institutions and services.