Serbian businessmen Karić have changed beneficiaries in their Belarusian projects. As we learned through the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), «Emirates Blue Sky», «Dubai Water Front» and «Dana Astra» were previously linked to Dana Holdings Limited with the office in Nicosia through a network of Cypriot offshore companies. Since the beginning of last December, the ultimate owner of the assets has been the Emirati company Enterprise Development Holding Limited, which is backed by Mustafa Al Tobgi. This person was the Managing Director of the Dana Holdings group of companies.
Maxim Adaskevich, a financial analyst at Duff & Phelps, says: «The change of ownership can occur for various reasons, including tax reasons. It is possible that people assess business risks and understand that there will be sanctions, that they are one of the possible addressees, and they take measures against it».
The members of the parent structure – the Cyprus company Dana Holdings Limited – have changed as well. Previously, its owners were the children of businessman Bogoljub Karić – Nebojsha Karić, Danica Karić, Jelena and Nadezhda Lazarevich. Now the beneficiary is a resident of Nicosia, Marinos Stylianides – μαρίνος στυλιανίδης) – director or secretary of hundreds of other Cypriot companies. The change of ownership occurred two weeks before the European Union imposed sanctions against the Serbs.
Maxim Adaskevich, a financial analyst at Duff & Phelps, believes: “The less a businessman is tied to the market of countries that have imposed sanctions, the easier it is. The less sanctions hit him, the easier it is to avoid them.”
Dana Holdings fell under the restrictions of Brussels with the wording “for supporting the Lukashenko regime”. The Karić family has a long history with the Belarusian authorities, which shows how being close to the body allows them to receive huge preferences and have insane incomes.
Dana Holdings almost imperceptibly entered the Belarusian market in the mid-2000s and began the construction of panel houses.
Natalia Litovskaya, an expert in the field of residential real estate, recalls:
“The first house of Dana Holdings was built on Volgogradskaya Street, so featureless. But it had a beautiful name, it was well advertised and quite quickly the housing was sold out. After that, the company built a couple of such small facilities and the first complex, after which everyone started talking about Dana Holdings – “Mayak Minsk” (Minsk Lighthouse).
For the construction of the “Minsk Lighthouse”, the Serbs received 55 hectares of land near the National Library. Construction began in 2009. Dana Holdings has promised to turn the eastern gate of Minsk into a small Dubai. The complex was supposed to have a system of canals with gondolas, gardens and green terraces, the largest water park in Europe, a 300-meter tower imitating a lighthouse.
During the construction process, the project was greatly simplified. Now “Mayak Minsk” is an array of 38 high-rise buildings with shops and cafes, as well as a shopping center “Dana Mall”.
Natalia Litovskaya, an expert in the field of residential real estate, says: “The Mayak was built quite quickly, on time, but not without scandals. There was something broken, then they put some strange elevators assembled from spare parts. But all the scandals were successfully smothered up, and almost the entire residential complex was sold. Yes, it turned out to be high-density, and there are not enough parking spaces, but because of the location, it is considered to be quite good.”
Since 2014, Dana Holdings has been launching its most ambitious project worth $ 3.5 billion – «Minsk Mir». On the area of more than 300 hectares near the old airport, 3 million square meters of housing are being built.
Some of the houses have already been rented out. In addition to housing, it is planned to build shopping, business and entertainment centers, kindergartens and schools in the Minsk Mir complex. The highlight of the complex should be the international financial center. The experience of Dubai will be used in its construction. So far, there is a pit on the place of the financial center.
This is not just about business cooperation between Serbia and Belarus. There are closer ties between the Lukashenko family and the Karićes. As of 2017, the wife of Viktor Lukashenko, Lilia, worked in one of the companies of the Serbian holding company “Dana Astra”. Now she runs the gallery “Art Chaos”, located in the shopping center “Dana Mall”.