Chinese technology giant Huawei has had secret contacts with people closely connected to Serbia's state company Telekom, through offshore companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, for years, according to the documents from the 'Pandora's Papers,' Crime and Corruption Investigative Network KRIK website reported on Monday.
The documents showed that at least a million euros ended in the accounts of those companies. A part is said to have gone to Telekom Serbia director Igor Jecl and lawyer Milorad Ignjacevic, who had business with the state-owned company through his „In the palm of your hand,“ KRIK wrote.
According to the website, Jecl owned an offshore company, ‘Rofly Investments“ at the British Virgin Islands and had lucrative contracts with the Chinese giant, earning at least 1.3 million euros.
Before Jecl, his friend, 84-year-old Ignjacevic, had contracts with Huawei through his offshore company „Goldberg Brokerage’ from Panama.
Jecl succeeded him eight years later.
In a database of nearly 12 million leaked documents under the ‘Pandora’s Papers’ project, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), KRIK and Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) journalists found documents related to those secret deals.
The first contracts were signed in 2007, when Huawei was establishing a business in Serbia. According to the leaked documents, the last contract was made on January 1, 2014, before Huawei became one of Telecom’s most important partners.
In 2014, Huawei got the job of developing Internet television (IPTV) from Telecom. Two years later, a contract worth 150 million euros for introducing optical cables, writes KRIK.
Jecl worked at Telekom from 2003 to 2008 did not want to answer questions from KRIK journalists.
Ignjacevic cooperated profitably with Telekom Serbia, KRIK added.
His other offshore company ‘Travis Assets’ and his son Uros agreed with Jecl to develop the ‘On Your Palm’ website for Telekom at a time when the lawyer started cooperating with Huawei. After a few years, the Ignjacevics bought the site from Telecom for only one dinar.
„Huawei has been there for two or three years, trying to get some jobs. I worked as their consultant,“ Ignjacevic told reporters but did not want to give more details.
The lawyer also claimed he did not know that his Panamanian company transferred the contracts to Jecl. „It would be devastating for me if that proved right. That would mean that Jecl is a liar and forger „, Ignjacevic told KRIK.
The current Telekom CEO Vladimir Lucic, said that he did not know anything about the Ignjacevic and Jecl businesses with Huawei.
„Honestly, I’m shocked. It’s unnecessary; it’s embarrassing. Neither Huawei nor Telekom needed that,“ Lucic said.
Experts in fighting financial crime told KRIK and OCCRP that these deals were suspicious.
Ross Delston, an anti-money laundering expert from Washington, said the invoices were huge. „It’s a lot of money for a consulting contract, a lot of money. There is no doubt it’s strange. The ownership of companies is also strange. Why didn’t they use companies in Serbia?“ he asked.
„It is common for bribery and corruption to be disguised as consulting jobs. This scheme is reminiscent of others I have seen, which were set up solely for a bribe. I can’t say that this is a bribe, but it is complicated to distinguish what is at stake,“ Graham Barrow, also an expert, said.
Huawei did not answer KRIK’s questions.