The property market makes a good place in the Balkans to hide dirty money.
On May 12, prosecutors in northern Macedonia accused Nikola Gruevski, the former prime minister of the country, of money laundering, reports The Economist, reports Klan Kosova.
It was alleged that he was sending cash donated to his party through Belize to buy property illegally and conceal its ownership. He says the issue is politically motivated.
Meanwhile in Jahorina, a popular ski resort in Bosnia, gangsters, plus officials they have corrupted, have invested in hotels. All kinds of corruption are widespread. A foreigner, who has built half a block of flats near his house in Vlora in southern Albania, whose construction has stalled because he refuses to pay a bribe to secure the necessary permits.
New buildings are being erected in Tirana, Pristina and Belgrade. Although the Balkan economies have been hit hard by COVID-19, property prices in parts of the region have challenged gravity. In Tirana they have more than doubled since 2017. Across Albania, the value of real estate transactions increased by 6.7% in 2020.
Drug money laundering, especially from cocaine trafficking, which has flourished in recent years, is one reason why prices are rising, finds a new report from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, an international network of crime specialists . Another is that corrupt officials have to invest their money. All Balkan countries have sound money laundering laws, but there is no enforcement.
In the past decade, crime syndicates in the Balkans have surpassed their small countries of origin.
They now earn a lot of their money abroad.
Therefore, according to the report, a large part of their profits is also invested abroad. But they still invest in the homeland.
Fatjona Mejdini, who helped research the report, says Balkan governments are vague about money laundering. Governments want to combat this phenomenon, but at the same time welcome the jobs and investment it can bring.
As for gangsters, they are conservative when it comes to investing them. They “lack imagination” says Mejdini, so they prefer bricks and mortar more than other types of business that they can use to clean their loot, continues The Economist.