Shady business in the mine
They delivered a crusher from Serbia to Banovići without a public invitation, and completed the “papers” retroactively
Last year, BiH exported coal worth about 154 million KM, which is five times more than in 2021, when coal worth about 26 million KM was exported. In the last two years, more than 30 criminal reports have been submitted to the Prosecutor's Office of TC for alleged illegalities in the mine, but there are still no prosecutorial decisions
Through a dubious agreement and engagement with a company from Serbia, the management of the brown coal mine “Banovići” last year, as Fokus learns, imported a mobile crushing plant from Serbia for the purpose of coal exploitation from the open pit “Grivice” near Banovići. For that plant, the competent services of Brown coal mine (BCM) “Banovići” retroactively issued a use permit and accompanying documentation, and the workers who work at this plant have not even been trained to work on this machine.
WRITTEN BY: Semira DEGIRMENDŽIĆ/Fokus.ba
In the background of the engagement of this crusher at the “Grivica” surface mine, but also of some persons from Serbia who, according to the claims of our sources, supervise the exploitation and loading of coal for Serbia, even though the unemployed are prohibited from entering the mine’s facilities and pits, is the contract that BCM “Banovići” has with Elektroprivreda Srbije on the export of coal.
The director of BCM “Banovići” Elvir Salihović claims that everything is in accordance with the law and that a public invitation has been issued.
– A mobile crushing plant including a crusher and a dry screening screen were leased through a public tender for the purpose of producing additional quantities of commercial coal. The reason why the management decided to rent such a facility is an obvious problem in the technological process of the separation plant, and the necessity of providing cash in order to ensure the liquidity of the business. In this way, we eliminated the costs of internal transport from the mine to separation and the costs of separation, which resulted in a significantly lower price for that coal, states, among other things, the answer from BCM “Banovići”.
However, our search for a public invitation to rent this facility did not bear fruit. Slobodan Golubović, the editor of the Pratimo tenders portal, says that the procurement was carried out in violation of the Law on Public Procurement.
– According to publicly available information on the Public Procurement Portal, in 2022 the procedure “Mobile crushing plant, including crusher and screen for dry screening” was not initiated by BCM “Banovići”, so it is not clear how this plant was rented. Any procurement made in violation of the Law on Public Procurement and the system of public procurement represents gross abuse – said Golubović for Fokus.
Our sources say that the crusher from Serbia was rented through a direct procedure that enables deals of up to 6,000 KM, and its installation was actually intended to enable loading without waiting in line for privileged suppliers at the separation.
– By loading the “Grivice” mine, you won’t catch anyone’s eye. However, there too arose a problem, that is, a conflict between privileged suppliers. If one really wants to make such a way of loading and grading, then serious projects should be made, financial profitability calculated and the optimal solution for our conditions and equipment should be purchased. It is not normal for a mine with an income of 160 million KM to see the solution to the problem in a used crusher with grading. Without such innovations, the mine operated positively for 16 years, and invested almost 200 million KM in equipment, from its own funds – according to our source.
There are many ambiguities and suspicions of fraud when talking about the quantity, quality, and price of exported coal.
As confirmed for Fokus by the BiH Indirect Tax Administration, the export of coal from BiH in 2022 will exceed the value of 154 million KM and the amount of 984 thousand tons of coal! Last year’s export of coal from BiH was a record export in the last few years. In 2021, Bosnia and Herzegovina exported 195 thousand tons of coal worth 26.4 million KM, which means that both quantitative and monetary exports increased five times last year.
Most of the coal was exported to Serbia, with 145 million of the total exported 154.2 million KM. Due to the secrecy of the company’s operations, the UIOBiH could not say what quantities were individually exported by mines and private companies.
Out of a total of 55 coal exporters from BiH, as many as fifty of them are indirect exporters and are private companies, while the mines “Banovići”, “Stanari”, “Breza”, “Đurđevik” and GIKIL are direct exporters. There are as many as six private coal exporters from Banovići.
RMU “Banovići” claims for Fokus that in 11 months of last year, they delivered an amount of 181,125 tons of coal, of all assortments, that is, slightly more than 11% of the total amount placed.
– When it comes to the delivery of coal for the Electric Power Company of Serbia, we note that 15% of the contracted quantities have been realized. An additional 75,000 tons of low-calorie coal, whose properties do not meet the needs of the domestic market, or the needs of thermal power plants in FBiH, were placed. This coal has been deposited at the separation depot for years, and the reason for depositing this coal is the refusal to receive it at TPP “Tuzla” and TPP “Kakanj”. The increase in the number of deliveries for export refers exclusively to low-calorie coal, according to BCM “Banovići”.
However, the data from UIOBIH clearly show that Serbia bought the brownest coal from BiH at a value of about 138 million KM, while Serbia imported other types of coal from our country for about seven million! Due to the better price on the foreign market, and the lack of records of which coal was exported by resellers and bought for the domestic market, a large amount of coal was exported through “indirect exporters” who bought coal for domestic sale, and due to the better price on the foreign market, then exported it, which is why a large number of BiH consumers were left without this energy source last year.
In Banovići, as the Fokus team noticed during a recent visit to that town, there is a large number of trucks with Serbian license plates that transport coal to Serbia every day. The demand is such that some are waiting for their turn for loading for days, so some companies have leased the parking space belonging to BCM “Banovići” at the exit from the city, where they wait to fill the trucks and drive them to Serbia.
They suspect that something hidden and secret is being done during the removal of coal and that you can often see trucks full of coal from the BCM Banovići mines leaving late at night.
BCM “Banovići” confirms for Fokus that convoys of trucks full of coal leave even at night, but they justify this by saying that the mine works in three shifts.
– Trucks that are sent to the mines for loading are first unloaded and weighed on the separation scales, and with an order, they are sent in convoys for loading to the mine. After the loading on the mine is completed, the transporters are issued an internal delivery note and, accompanied by mine security, they are sent to the separation plant where they are weighed again under load. After weighing, carriers are issued with prescribed documentation, including a delivery note, and only then can the trucks go to the customer’s final destination – say BCM “Banovići”.
However, our sources claim that never before in BCM “Banovića” has work been done in such a way that coal is selected and sold directly to the mine.
– There are no conditions to be able to determine on the spot what kind of coal it is, its moisture content, calorific value, weight and the like. It is particularly worrisome that there is a man employed 24 hours a day inside the mine who determines directly in the “Grivice” mine which coal will go to the mobile plant and which will go to separation. The very fact that such a way of loading and selling is not in the papers, and that everything boils down to innovation, adaptation and the absence of a system solution, says that there are no clean jobs. It is illogical for the quantities exported to be 600 tons per day, because in equivalent terms it is more than 130,000 KM per day – our source points out.
BCM “Banovići” claims that last year the price in export contracts for low-calorie coal did not change and was 8.15 KM/GJ. They also stated that “the price of higher quality coal placed according to the EPBiH defined by the Decision of the FBiH Government is 5,712 KM/GJ, and BCM “Banovići” managed to negotiate a price of 8.15 KM/GJ for lower quality coal”.
– The price of commercial coal produced at a mobile crushing plant is higher than the price of coal produced in the classic way in a separation plant and amounts to 228 KM/t including VAT. The price of coal from separation is 210 KM/t including VAT – says BCM “Banovići”.
BECAUSE OF LOWER PRICES FOR ELEKTROPRIVREDA BiH, THE MINE’S VAT IS INCREASED BY 750,000 KM!
However, Fokus obtained information that in November of last year the inspectors of the UIOBiH discovered that BCM “Banovići” invoiced coal to Elektroprivreda BiH at prices lower than the production prices, so BCM “Banovići” was charged an additional amount of VAT of as much as 750,000 KM which means that there is a difference in the total delivery price of several million KM, that is, coal was sold per ton in the amount of 78 KM, and the production price is 105 KM!
– In this context, the inspectors of the ITA corrected the prices, that is, increased the prices at which the “Banovići” Mine invoiced the delivery of coal to Elektroprivreda BiH, so an additional obligation based on VAT was determined for the said mine in the amount of about 750 thousand KM – a source from the Office of the ITABiH in Tuzla told Fokus, adding that the mine “Banovići” complained about this attitude of the ITA, and the appeal procedure has not yet been completed.
It is clear that in this case, we are talking about the conclusion of a harmful contract for BCM “Banovići”, which also includes criminal liability.
In addition to the obviously questionable actions of BCM “Banovići” in connection with the sale and export of coal, our interlocutors point to numerous other problems accompanying the operation of this mine, and some claim that due to huge losses, non-domestic operations, nepotism, party recruitment, and other malpractices if this practice continues, the complete collapse of this once respectable mine is inevitable.
This is supported by the data that the mine is credit indebted in order to be able to pay wages to the workers.
In their response to Fokus, BCM “Banovići” denied the information about the loan debt for salaries and said that last year they increased the wages of workers in the net amount of 230 KM and that they also paid all workers a one-time aid in the amount of 750 KM in September of last year.
However, they admit that the mine is in debt in the amount of 56 million KM. They state that these liabilities mainly refer to investment procurements realized “in the previous period, and above all to investments in the transport system project”. The current management accuses the former management of the mine, led by Munever Čergić, of engaging in this procurement, “not providing financial resources for that purpose”.
MORE THAN 30 CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS FILED
It is known that BCM “Banovići” has been attached to the name and influence of Mirsad Kukić for years, both when he was in the SDA and when he was the president of the PDA, who resigned from that position after being put on the “American blacklist”. However, today the head of the mine is SDA staff, and the head of the Municipality of Banovići is SDA staff Bego Gutić.
Political polarization in the mine also led to the existence of two trade unions, one of which, the Trade Union of the Employees of BCM “Banovići”, is regarded as the one favourable to the SDA and the current administration, while the other, the Trade Union Organization of BCM “Banovići”, is associated with Kukić’s name and with PDA.
In the last two years, the union organization in that mine has submitted more than 30 criminal charges to the Prosecutor’s Office of TC for illegal activities in the mine. This was confirmed for Fokus by Admir Arnautović, the spokesperson of the TC Prosecutor’s Office, who says that cases were formed based on those reports. Given that there is still no epilogue to those reports, the trade union organization addressed the Federal Prosecutor’s Office as well.
– This is due to the fact that checks on previously reported actions are carried out, reports are submitted, but then reports for similar actions are submitted, and it is necessary to carry out checks again, exclude relevant documentation, conduct hearings or other investigative actions and resubmit an amended report to the Prosecutor’s Office. This completely slows down the work on these cases and delays the making of prosecutorial decisions, because these checks require time and the constant work of investigators and prosecutors, Arnautović told Fokus.
We also asked the Prosecutor’s Office of TC how they acted according to the Report on the committed criminal offence, dated October 20, 2021, which was submitted to them by the Criminal Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of TC for 11 persons, and we asked for an answer as to whether In the report, he also cites doubts about the influence of Bega Gutić, the mayor of Banovići Municipality, on the processes at BCM “Banovići”. Although more than a year has passed since the submission of that report, there is no final prosecutor’s decision, and the TC Prosecutor’s Office confirms that “politically connected persons” are also mentioned in that document, but at this stage, they do not want to talk about names.
– In October 2021, the Criminal Police Department of the TC MIA submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office a Report on the committed criminal offence against 11 persons responsible for the criminal offence of receiving a reward or other form of benefit for influence peddling and abuse of position and authority. After the submission of the Report, we again have the same situation of submission of similar reports, so it is necessary to request amendments to the Report and re-checking of the reported actions, and the final prosecutor’s decision has not yet been made. The Report also mentions political influences on certain processes in the mine, however, until the prosecutor’s decision is made, we will not name any reported person – says Admir Arnautović, spokesman for the TC Prosecutor’s Office.
LAWYER AZRA GUTIĆ REPRESENTS THE PROSECUTORS OF THE MINE, AND HER HUSBAND DEFENDS THE MINE AGAINST LAWSUITS
Arnautović also states that “in connection with the events in Banovići, which relate in particular to the functioning of the BCM Banovići, this prosecution has a large number of criminal charges in its work in which the applicants are members of another trade union, that is, members of the BCM Banovići Employees’ Union, or persons politically close to them, against another side opposed to them”.
As Fokus learns, one criminal complaint also refers to the change in the practice that disputes of lesser value that arise due to mining damages and expropriation are now resolved through the courts, and not, as was previously the case, with out-of-court settlements. In the application, it is stated that in these processes the prosecutors against the mine are represented by lawyer Azra Gutić, the wife of Amel Gutić, an employee of BCM “Banovići”, who is the head of the Sector for Investments and Development of New Activities, where the Service for Expropriation and Mining Damages also operates. This actually means that all those with whom Amel Gutić is trying to negotiate for the interests of the mine, if they are dissatisfied, engage his wife as a lawyer, which the applicants consider a conflict of interest and “fixing affairs” for the wife of the employee of BCM “Banovići”.
When asked by Fokus, the mine confirmed that among the lawyers “who represent the opposing parties in these processes of negotiation and settlement in out-of-court and court disputes” is the lawyer Azra Gutić.
Considering all the events in BCM “Banovići”, which is majority owned by the FBiH Government, it is clear that the Government and the Minister of Energy, Mining and Industry Nermin Đindić should have reacted long ago. However, bearing in mind that during the past years in the FBiH, once successful companies have been brought to the “beggar’s stick”, and which are included in the portfolio of Minister Đindić, then it is not surprising that there is no reaction from the portfolio minister.