Photograph: Photo by Brian Eager, used under CC BY

An increasingly frequent sale of land in Bosnia and Herzegovina to companies and people from Arab countries may pose a real long-term problem for the country and the unclear origin of money used in such transactions has become a subject of interest of local police and intelligence agencies, the local media reported last week.

Commenting on this, Esad Durakovic, a prominent professor at Sarajevo's Faculty of Humanities and Social Studies, wrote in an article for the local media that the race for real estate and money could have devastating consequences for Bosnia and Herzegovina's future.

In his comment, he describes the mass purchase of real estate by Arabs as "a special strategy whose end results cannot be seen now but will be when it's too late." "I even believe that this is a project of some kind," says Durakovic, who teaches the Arab language and literature.

Durakovic said that this was not about any production investments or development of tourism but merely about the sale of the country's most valuable property.

The mass settlement of Arabs in Bosnia and Herzegovina may have disastrous consequences for the survival of the country which already has many opponents, and secessionists like Milorad Dodik (the president of the Serb entity) can hardly wait for new arguments to support their claims that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot survive as a state, says Durakovic.

It is not the same when Arabs buy real estate, for example, in London, and when they do so in a relatively small country like Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is populated by cosmopolitan Muslims who have been having problems for years with various self-proclaimed "missionaries of Islam", says Durakovic.

"When many Arabs/Muslims settle - by buying land - it is only realistic to expect that the Dodik-styled policians will have an additional, final argument for secession (the extreme HDZ politicians will have it too) because they will not wish to live in 'Muslimania', a country where one entity is packed with Salafis, para-jamaats, members of the Ahmadiyya community and Shia and where, to top it off, Arabs have bought entire regions," said Durakovic.

Durakovic's warning came after the Security Ministry's department for foreign nationals started checking the operations of companies that buy land.

Nationals of Arab countries do not have the right to directly buy real estate in Bosnia and Herzegovina but that legal obstacle is being bypassed by companies that do it on their behalf and that own millions of euros.

Slobodan Ujic, the head of the department for foreign nationals, confirmed for the regional N1 television network that there were 108 such companies registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are owned by foreign nationals who have been subject to special checks. Seventy-one of those companies are run by Kuwaiti nationals, 12 by Libyans, 10 by Syrians and two by Qatari nationals.

The checks have shown that there is reason to believe that many such companies are only a front for money laundering.

"We have discovered many, many fictitious companies," Ujic said, explaining that 99% of the companies trading in real estate had registered the original capital of only 1,000 euros and had in the meantime bought land or buildings worth up to some 350,000 euros.

Ten foreign nationals were deported in the last five months on the suspicion that they were involved in money laundering and tax evasion.

This problem has become so serious that the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) and the Security-Intelligence Agency have joined in those investigations.

Related stories

Latest news

Macedonian president blocks opposition's PM candidate

Macedonia's President Gorge Ivanov on Wednesday blocked the Social Democratic (SDSM) opposition leader Zoran Zaev from becoming prime minister, accusing him of intent to violate the country's constitution.

North Korea dismisses 'absurd' claims over death of Kim Jong Nam

Pyongyang on Wednesday dismissed as "the height of absurdity" official accounts of the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

President visits car glass factory in Lipik

During her visit to Lipik on Wednesday, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic visited the Lipik Glas factory which specialises in the manufacture of glass for high-end cars.

Hong Kong firm buys London's 1.1-billion-pound 'Cheesegrater' tower

A Hong Kong-based firm on Wednesday exchanged contracts to buy central London's iconic "Cheesegrater" office tower for 1.135 billion pounds (1.4 billion dollars).

Taliban assaults in Kabul end with 16 dead, officials say

At least 16 civilians and security forces were killed when Taliban suicide bombers targeted Afghan security facilities at two locations in Kabul on Wednesday, officials said. 

Top US general welcomes planned military boost in Lithuania

The head of US military forces in Europe on Wednesday welcomed Lithuania's move to boost military spending and personnel.

Dutch anti-Islam party slides to 2nd place in polls ahead of election

With just two weeks to go until national elections, the Netherlands' Islamophobic Party for Freedom (PVV), headed by firebrand populist Geert Wilders, has lost its top position in opinion polls for the first time this year.

Indictment upheld against former Defence Ministry official in aircraft overhaul case

The Zagreb County Court on Wednesday upheld an indictment against Josip Covic, former chief of the Defence Ministry Department for Aircraft Repairs and Maintenance, for soliciting a bribe of EUR 50,000 from Ivica Josipovic, representative of a Ukrainian company that had overhauled Croatian MiG fighter jets.

Five scenarios for the future of the European Union

The European Commission presented a paper Wednesday on the future of the European Union after Brexit, calling on EU leaders and the European Parliament to decide how the bloc should evolve by 2025.

HGK: Foreign debt reduced by EUR 3.3 billion y-o-y

According to data from the Croatian National Bank (HNB), Croatia's gross foreign debt at the end of November 2016 amounted to 43.8 billion euro, which is 3.3 billion or 6.9% less than in November 2015, while the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) estimated that the debt-to-GDP ratio at the end of 2016 could fall under 100% for the first time in 7 years.

Croatian Constitutional Court to announce its ruling on abortion Thursday

Constitutional Court President Miroslav Separovic will announce on Thursday a ruling on a complaint of unconstitutionality filed against a law which regulates the right to abortion and which dates back to 1978, the Constitutional Court said.

Ukrainian rebels declare business takeovers as blockade tensions rise

A major Ukrainian rebel group said Wednesday that it was taking over dozens of businesses operating on its territory, as nationalist activists enforce a blockade that has cut off trade with the rebel-held east for a month.

Gabriel: NATO defence spending goal is "unrealistic" for Germany

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Wednesday underlined the importance of the NATO-mandated rule on defence spending, but said it was "unrealistic" that Germany would reach the goal of spending 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Parliament endorses amendments to construction act

Although parliamentary caucuses on Wednesday supported in principle, amendments to the law on construction which, according to Construction and Zoning Minister Lovro Kuscevic, "will significantly improve the construction system, accelerate and facilitate investments, notably the strategic ones," the Opposition submitted a number of suggestions and criticism.

Afghanistan district falls to Taliban after fierce fighting

Taliban militants took control Wednesday of a district in Afghanistan's troubled north-eastern Baghlan province, local officials said.

NGO worried about turnaround in Croatia's foreign policy on women's rights

The nongovernmental organisation Platforma 112 held a news conference outside the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, expressing concern about a turnaround in Croatia's foreign policy in the field of women's human rights and rights of sexual minorities.  

Festival of La Francophonie to be held in Croatia in March

The Festival of La Francophonie will be held in 14 Croatian towns throughout March to promote French culture and cultural diversity.

Bosnia divided over Independence Day celebration

A half of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday observed 1 March as the country's Independence Day in memory of the 1992 independence referendum when the vast majority of citizens voted for severing all ties with the then Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).