When Mladen Bogdanović took ownership of the company Valir in 2020, he could not have imagined that about two years later he would become the focus of media attention. In mid-July this year, a plane carrying mortars from Krušik, which his company was selling, crashed in Greece and became the news of the day.
The ownership structure prior to Bogdanović pointed to ties with Slobodan Tešić, an arms dealer who has been under United Nations sanctions, and since 2017 by the United States of America. Information uncovered by CINS reveals new links.
Working at Valir is Vera Diković, the daughter-in-law of former Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, Ljubiša Diković, and she submitted documents to the Serbian Business Registers Agency this year on behalf of the company. Vera is married to Diković’s son Nemanja, who until recently was second secretary at the Embassy of Serbia in Greece, and is currently employed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This Ministry normally participates in the process of issuing permits for the import, export, transport and transit of weapons and military equipment, i.e. the arms trade. The Ministry did not tell us what position the younger Diković holds today.
When CINS’s journalist called the company’s phone number, she was told that Vera “has gone to the Ministry to get something”. We managed to get in touch with Vera, but she did not want to talk to us.
We also asked her husband, Nemanja Diković, for a comment, but he told us to seek approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nemanja’s father, Ljubiša Diković, was appointed Chief of General Staff in 2011, and retired in 2018. Back in 2015, Blic reported on how his entire family was working in government services – his wife in the army, his daughter in the Civil Aviation Directorate, and Nemanja in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a conversation with CINS’s journalist, Diković did not want to answer questions seriously. This did not change even after we called him a second time.
During the 1990s, Diković was the commander of the 16th Border Battalion of the Yugoslav People’s Army, which, according to the Humanitarian Law Center, was stationed on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
CINS can also reveal that the owner of Valir, Mladen Bogdanović, is the son of Luka Bogdanović, who in the 1990s was the Head of the Bratunac Public Security Station and Head of the police department of the Zvornik Public Security Center. He retired in 2012 as Deputy Chief of the police station in Bratunac. That year, he was also mentioned in the media as the president of the nearby local community of Ježeštica.
Luka Bogdanović was a witness before the court in Bosnia and Herzegovina in various war crimes cases. Radovan Karadžić proposed him as one of the researchers for his defense team. However, the secretariat of the Hague Tribunal rejected this request because of the role and position he had during the war, i.e. during the period which Karadžić was on trial for at that time.
We were unable to reach Bogdanović at the phone number that was submitted to the Hague Tribunal, and which that he still uses, as far as CINS journalists were informed.
His son Mladen has not answered our calls or responded to an e-mail that the company told us he would receive on his phone.
In addition, documents for this company were also submitted by Sanja Kapetina. The media wrote that she is the daughter of Dragan Kapetina, who was Head of the State Directorate for the Transfer of Weapons and Military Equipment in the Republika Srpska. The captain was also a director in several companies owned by Slobodan Tešić, according to previous reports by Bosnia’s Žurnal.
Sanja Kapetina also did not want to talk about her participation in this business.
All of Valir’s licenses
In 2021, Valir generated income of just under 56 million EUR (over 6.5 billion RSD).
According to data that CINS received from the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, between January 2020 and July 21, 2022, 29 licenses for the export of weapons and military equipment were issued to this company.
The end users were the defense ministries of Azerbaijan, Mali, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Also, licenses were issued for the export of ammunition to the United States of America for sale on the commercial market.
In its response, the Ministry states that in most of the 29 licenses, the export was fully or partially realized, apart from eight cases (of which four licenses expired).
Also, Valir’s financial report shows that in 2021, the company Krupnik, which is mentioned in the Krušik affair, gave this company a loan of over 200 million RSD.
Valir as an intermediary
The Nova.rs and BIRN portals reported that Valir was only an intermediary in the trade of mines from the plane shot down in Greece, i.e. that the weapons were being transported for the Bosnian company BA-Metalexort. when asked by journalists why they did not do business directly with Krušik, the director of this company Alen Đuzel explained that this could not be done.
"The Ministry of Defense of Bangladesh is our customer. We could not buy directly from the factory, because they have their own brokers. Valir was a broker, they offered us what we needed," Đuzel told BIRN.
According to the findings of the State Audit Institution (DRI), Krušik sold weapons through commission agents – the companies GIM, Jugoimport SDPR and Krupnik. CINS already spoke with whistleblower Aleksandar Obradović about what brought about the Krušik affair.
Zenitprom also gave a loan to Valir in 2021. This company was exporting weapons to Myanmar in 2020 and early 2021, ahead of the coup that led to civil war, according to an investigation carried out by CINS, BIRN, the Myanmar organization Myanmar Witness and the Dutch organization Lighthouse.