Sarajevo.jpg
Sarajevo
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.

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