Sometimes Slovenians justifiably ask themselves how big a scandal needs to be for their political leadership and other competent services to dedicate at least some attention to it. This is exactly what has been happening in the case of the controversial Iranian transactions at NLB. It is a scandal of international proportions involving several prominent Slovenian representatives that still pull important strings in Slovenian society. But it seems that this is not a good enough reason for all competent persons to work intensively and reveal those involved and punish them.
Let us try to run through the facts that have been leaking into the public since June in 15 minutes. Because the current government has only devoted 15 minutes to the presentation of this important issue.
When an Iranian enters a Slovenian bank
It is an unpleasant story that took place in the years 2009 and 2010, when $1 billion was laundered through Slovenia, or more precisely the NLB bank. The first warning light which we should note at this point is that the money was transferred from a bank in Tehran that had been blacklisted by the EU Council.
The main actor is the Iranian and also British citizen Iraj Farrokhzadeh, who opened an account at NLB in December 2008, and three of his companies also operated through NLB. Foreign banks, for example the Swiss USB, had closed the accounts of Farrokhzadeh and his colleagues in 2008 due to suspicious transactions, and immediately after that the Iranians opened accounts at NLB. No one at NLB examined them.
By the way, between 2009 and 2011, Božo Jašovič was the president of the management board at NLB, while members of the management board included Marko Jazbec, Robert Kleindinst, Claude Deroose, and David Benedek. However, let us recall that the money went to more than nine thousand accounts in the USA, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe and the world, and payments from accounts at NLB also went to two companies in Slovenia, Acroni and MLM.
Who knew about it?
The Bank of Slovenia knew about the unusual developments at NLB, but it only issued a decision on the prohibition of transactions with the Iranians on 14 December 2010. And to make matters worse, this was followed by a delay in complying with this prohibition as NLB needed 9 days to implement it on 23 December 2010. By then the infamous Iranian was already operating through Russian banks.
The Slovene Intelligence and Security Agency also knew about the money laundering, since the French secret service also looked for information on these businessmen soon after they had opened an account in Slovenia. They did not act.
This was also known to people within the bank. Warnings within the bank about money laundering appeared very early in 2009, but the director of the foreign payments department at NLB, Alenka Korče, was the one saying that there was nothing controversial about it. Direct instructions about all transactions of Farrokhzadeh’s companies were provided by Sandi Pibernik, the head of the external operations department at NLB. The payments were carried out every day between 2.00 and 3.00 pm, and daily there were 40 to 50 transactions to various accounts around the world. The bankers also violated internal rules. They deliberately faked transfers, which went to Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Scrooge. Several transactions were also intended for multimillion purchases of fitness equipment, etc. The criminal police were informed about the whole matter when the story was already concluded.
What about the political leadership?
It is of particular concern that the political leadership of the time is keeping silent – then Slovenian prime minister Borut Pahor, Slovenian president Danilo Türk, and ministers France Križanič, Katarina Kresal, and Aleš Zalar. All of them were supposedly thoroughly informed about the case, but it seems they very much like to heed the saying: “Silence is golden.”
When such large amounts of money are being laundered, it is quite possible that a euro here and there is misplaced or falls into some other pocket.
Those are just a few morsels of information, just the basic information on the matter if you will, and more complex information has not even been mentioned. Who brought the “Iranian” to Slovenia, who else is involved, why did no one act, who else benefited, who will be held responsible, will anyone be held responsible, how is it possible that this even happened? Well, the last question is one that Slovenians have been asking a lot recently, and at the same time they no longer even expect to hear an answer.