From the Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo Canton, we received a vague response to the detailed inquiry by Fokus about the investigation into the business dealings of TMR and the collaboration between “Pretis” and “Thermaco,” which is owned by Novalić’s daughters.
The investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo Canton has been ongoing for over three years, focusing on the amount of money Fadil Novalić and Nermin Džindić, the former Prime Minister of FBiH and former Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mining, withdrew from the company “Pretis” Vogošća through the former joint company of these two individuals, “Termo Metal Resist” (TMR).
In the meantime, multiple sources confirmed to Fokus that the company “Thermaco,” registered in October 2019, is now conducting business with “Pretis,” and it is owned by Ada Mulahasanović, Naida Muslim, and Azra Novalić, who are Novalić’s daughters.
“The firm of Fadil Novalić’s daughters, ‘Thermaco,’ is registered at Igmanska bb address, which is actually the same location where the company ‘Termo Metal Resist’ (TMR) used to be, in which Fadil Novalić and Nermin Džindić, the former Minister of Energy, Mining, and Industry, were majority owners, among others. There were rumours that TMR was sold and then closed, but whatever happened to that company and under whatever conditions it operated, it is clear that Novalić is behind it, as he has close relations with the director of ‘Pretis,’ Almira Zulić, who enables either TMR or now ‘Thermaco’ to sell their products to this company at the expense of ‘Pretis,’” says our source.
TRAPPED IN THE RING OF GRENADE PRIMERS
From the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office in Sarajevo, in response to Fokus’ detailed inquiry about the investigation into TMR’s business dealings and the collaboration between “Pretis” and “Thermaco,” which is owned by Novalić’s daughters, we received a brief response.
“Considering the content of your inquiry dated June 9, 2023, we inform you that the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo is continuously and intensively conducting legally prescribed actions with the aim of making a correct and lawful prosecutorial decision. Due to the nature of the procedure, at this moment, the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office cannot provide further information,” stated the Cantonal Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo, which has been giving a similar response to this question for the past three years, with no resolution in sight.
Collaboration between “Pretis” and the company owned by Novalić’s daughters, supposedly backed by their more publicly known father, is conducted in a way where their workshop, located right next to “Pretis” in Vogošća, produces primer rings for howitzer grenades. Our sources claim that most of the illegal activities take place under the cover of night and to the detriment of “Pretis.”
“If someone were to come at two or three in the morning, they would witness a forklift coming from TMR or ‘Thermaco’ to ‘Pretis,’ loading copper billets needed for making the primer rings for howitzer grenades and taking that raw material for free. Then they deliver to us those primer rings of very poor quality, which we have to rework, and they are twice as expensive as the ones we used to procure from Serbia, which required no reworking. So, the company closely connected to Novalić takes copper billets from ‘Pretis’ for free, turns them into primer rings, and then sells the product back to us at a high cost. It’s a vicious circle, and let me tell you, when you remelt something fifteen times, it’s no longer of good quality,” our sources bitterly explain.
A forklift takes copper billets from “Pretis” to the company registered as TMR or Thermaco.
The shady activities happening “in the dead of night” at “Pretis” are further supported by documents from this and the previous year, which Fokus has had access to. These documents record instances where forklifts from the neighbouring company, where TMR or “Thermaco” are located, come to “Pretis” to pick up copper billets without any purchase orders and transport them to the private company.
Copper billets were taken to TMR, along with a basket of brass cartridges without a shipping note.
A forklift driver from TMR took copper billets and brass cartridges twice without a shipping note.
A forklift driver from TMR transported 1,100 kilograms of waste copper billets without providing a shipping note – these are just some of the allegations from the documents in possession of “Pretis” management, which Fokus has obtained.
The Rise of the Zulić Siblings
One of the documents states that transporting raw materials from “Pretis” without a purchase order to the neighbouring company is illegal, and it calls for the submission of purchase orders when copper billets are taken from “Pretis” to the address where “Thermaco” and TMR are registered.
To clarify the situation regarding the relationship between “Pretis” Vogošća and the company TMR, which was owned by Novalić and Džindić, it is worth noting that the two companies had been doing business for years. Žurnal extensively reported on this, and estimates indicate that TMR extracted at least one million marks from “Pretis” through their dealings.
The scandalous aspect is that during this time, Novalić was heading the Government of FBiH, which was the majority owner of “Pretis,” while Džindić was the minister directly responsible for companies in the defence industry, including “Pretis.”
The way Novalić and Džindić “overlapped” this defence industry company and effectively controlled it for eight years for personal interests is evident from the fact that Almira Zulić, the sister of a former associate of Džindić in his cabinet, was appointed as the head of “Pretis.” Meanwhile, her brother became the director of TTU “Energetik” Tuzla, a company operating within Elektroprivreda BiH.
Zulić’s management of “Pretis” is evident from the fact that she refused to provide documentation to the Audit Office of FBiH and prevented audits for the years 2019 and 2020.
When auditors finally exercised their legal right to conduct an audit, they rated “Pretis” as having a negative performance for both years, as previously reported by Fokus.
Both audit reports are filled with warnings about irregularities and the poor state of affairs in “Pretis,” but neither the Government of FBiH nor the Parliament of FBiH takes any action.
In the meantime, according to our sources, the director of “Pretis” continued with various manipulations in the company, and she is accused of bringing a large number of incompetent workers to this defence industry company who are practically “colliding” with each other, and nobody knows what their job is.
-The problem is that about 40 machines were purchased, but only seven of them are operational. We don’t know how and for what price these machines were bought, but there are indications that they were purchased from a company in Tuzla, which is owned by the director’s brother. Machines from TMR were also taken, and they look like they belong in a scrapyard. The director does not inform any of the workers about the company’s plans, and we are aware of the negative audit reports. However, she meets with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bisera Turković, and we heard that she wants to be involved in mediating or in some other way in the sale of Pretis products – said our source, who accuses Zulić.
We asked for a response from the director of “Pretis,” Almira Zulić, regarding all these allegations, as well as information about the steps taken to address irregularities and illegalities identified by auditors, via email.
Instead of a response, she scheduled a meeting at “Pretis.” We informed the director that we are unable to attend the meeting and that we need written answers, but even after 20 days, we haven’t received them.
Changes or “more of the same”? Will it be a new direction?
While the lack of response from the director, who was appointed by Novalić and Džindić to lead “Pretis,” is not surprising, the behaviour of Vedran Lakić, Minister of Energy, Mining, and Industry in the Government of FBiH, does not inspire optimism for any changes.
Not only did Lakić fail to respond to our inquiry sent more than 20 days ago, but he also ignored the message we sent reminding him of our questions and his obligation to comply with the Law on Freedom of Access to Information.
In our inquiry to Lakić, we informed him of the allegations from our sources regarding the events in “Pretis” and asked if he would verify these claims.
We asked Lakić if he has a friendly relationship with Almira Zulić from their student days and how he comments on the allegations from our sources that the director of “Pretis” organized a kind of celebration after his appointment, allegedly expecting his support to remain in the position of director.
There was also no response to our inquiry about the events in “Pretis” and the comments on all the allegations presented in this article, which we directed to Mevlida Ćatović, a member of the Supervisory Board of the company.
On the other hand, the Audit Office of FBiH is not optimistic that the catastrophic situation in “Pretis,” which they discovered during the audits for 2019 and 2020, has improved.
The Director of the Audit Office of FBiH, Dževad Nekić, says that after publishing negative reports for “Pretis” Vogošća in 2021, they no longer conducted audits because “there is no point in wasting the resources of the Office.”
“There is no point in conducting another audit now if significant irregularities were identified, and negative opinions were given. There is no point in even trying because if the irregularities have not been rectified, we would be wasting resources. Just look at the report for “Pretis” Vogošća, and you will see how many debts we identified the issued guarantees, and the level of debt. At that time, their liabilities exceeded their assets, and their solvency was in question at that moment. It would be good if the FBiH Government initiated some activities, but I doubt that these problems and deficiencies could be solved overnight,” Nekić said for Fokus.
During the rule of Novalić and Džindić, information was constantly spread to the public that “the defence industry in FBiH is flourishing.”
All official and unofficial data regarding the operations of companies in this industry, which indeed has potential, but requires lawful operations and better management, indicate otherwise and testify that privileged individuals benefited the most from the state-owned defence industry companies in FBiH.
Audit reports for defence industry companies in FBiH are significant material for prosecutors and potential “indictments” against those responsible for bringing former giants, including “Zrak,” “Binas,” and “Vitezit,” to the brink of collapse or complete failure.
The new government has announced imminent changes in the management structures of defence industry companies in FBiH, and it will soon be seen whether these changes will be genuine or whether, as has often happened before, the same old recipe of “out with the old, in with the new” will be applied.