The first great affair of the NLB bank in independent Slovenia was the ‘Sigma’ affair – today hardly anybody working there remembers it

Foto: STA. Marko Voljč. Glavni akter afere Sigma.

The iranNLBgate affair has received little coverage in Slovenian regime media, even though at the beginning of June the Commission for the Supervision of Intelligence and Security Services revealed shocking data on Iranian money laundering in the biggest Slovenian bank between 2009 and 2010, when almost a billion dollars had been laundered through bank accounts – all the leading Slovenian politicians, including president of Slovenia Borut Pahor, had been aware of it. This year’s affair, quite probably the biggest so far in independent Slovenia, later led to the revealing of other related bank affairs – a few days ago, Nova24TV published an exclusive report on money laundering in the New York branch of the old Ljubljanska banka (LBS) at the end of the eighties (at the time UDBA had been aiding director Vinko Mir with unlimited financial resources while the LBS bank had been found guilty of causing damages to the US), and then there is the story of Macedonia having been shaken by the great money laundering affair in the NLB branch Tutunska. After more than a decade, the Sigma affair, which was responsible for the resignation of Marko Voljč as head of NLB in 2003, is relevant again. Hardly anybody in NLB remembers this affair, or perhaps they do not want to remember it, and the public relations division could not even answer our simplest questions: How much has the Sigma project cost NLB up to now? What have been its positive effects which are still evident today? Would it be possible to say that buying the Sigma system was economically justifiable? Was anybody at any time liable for the damage?

Let us recall. In the second half of the nineties, NLB decided to overhaul its computer system. They travelled the world in search of programs, and in the end they decided to “buy” them in Australia, which invited many critical comments due to the expensiveness of the investment. The problem also lay in importing a whole range of Australian programmers, who did not perform satisfactory work, but nevertheless lived at the expense of NLB for many months and subsequently, when the bank needed to be recapitalised, at the expense of Slovenian taxpayers.

The implementation of the so-called Sigma project was repeatedly postponed to the following year, and due to poor staffing, the bank leadership left the operational management in the hands of a person who was not qualified for it. It is no secret that Marko Voljč was the main culprit in the affair, and not long after the launch and the subsequent crash of the system in 2003, savers were unable to access data about their money. Scenes in which long lines of pensioners waited in front of the bank during the summer heat wave in 2003 remain imprinted in the minds of the Slovenian people.

In spite of all this, Voljč has done perfectly fine for himself since leaving NLB. Today, he is the president of the Supervisory Board at Gorenje, and he and his spouse Romana Voljč Kovács yearly “draw” around €300,000 from the staffing agency.

L. S.