Belgrade’s powerful mayor Sinisa Mali organized last year’s violent demolition of a Belgrade neighborhood because it stood in the way of the ‘Belgrade Waterfront’ construction project, Mali’s ex-wife told The Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption, KRIK.
In an interview published on Monday, Marija Mali told KRIK that her ex-husband – a close associate of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic – had told her he was behind the midnight demolition of the Savamala neighborhood last April.
Mrs. Mali said she was in Montenegro with her children when a group of about 30 masked men armed with baseball bats knocked down multiple buildings in Belgrade’s riverbank neighborhood, Savamala, using heavy equipment.
The brutality of the operation, which allegedly involved residents being tied up and otherwise mistreated, shocked Serbia and caused several demonstrations.
Prime Minister Vucic told reporters afterwards that the “highest city officials” were behind the destruction of the neighborhood but wouldn’t say who.
Mrs. Mali said her ex-husband joined them a day after the bizarre midnight incident and told her about it as if it was an insignificant event.
“I had a problem, some people refused to move out. I organized a cleaning operation. People came in the middle of the night and trashed a little bit over there,” Mrs. Mali cited her ex husband as saying.
“I organized everything myself,” he allegedly bragged.
“Sinisa had the task to clean out that area because he had negotiated the construction of the ‘Belgrade Waterfront’ there with the Arabs,“ Marija Mali told KRIK.
The Serbian government signed a contract for the construction of ‘Belgrade Waterfront’ with the United Arab Emirates based company Eagle Hills in April 2015. It is supposed to be one of the biggest renewal projects in Europe, worth €3 billion ( US$ 3.1 billion).
Marija Mali also said she took part in some of her ex-husband’s dubious businesses because he had blackmailed and threatened her.
She said that after their divorce, Sinisa Mali used his connections to obtain custody over their three children and to get her fired from her job.
Because he took her children, she said she decided to go public with what she knows about him.
Marija Mali said her ex-husband used to bring home cash and made her put it on her credit card and then spend it on the household.
She said that at some point, in order to justify to investigators a € 95,000 difference between what the family made and what it had spent, he made her lie that she had found that money after her father’s death.
Mrs. Mali said even she does not know how many apartments her husband owned in Belgrade, on the ski resort Kopaonik and in Bulgaria.
Reporters for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and KRIK learned in 2015 that Belgrade’s mayor was the director of two offshore companies that own 19 resort apartments worth more than US$ 5 million on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
Mali also directly owns another large apartment in the same resort.