January 21, 2018
Given the general lack of good writing in English on the Slovene political scene, the work of Pengovsky is a thing of wonder. Not just informative, but whip-smart and funny, his commentaries will turn the often flat show of politics on the Sunny Side of the Alps into the Technicolor carnival of knaves and fools that it is.
The fulsome praise of the way, along with the obligatory link to the front page of the site, we'll turn now to Pengovsky’s latest piece, published January 19, which takes us a on a trip through Janez Janša’s latest scandal. This is a convoluted but essentially simple tale of what appears to be money laundering. No, not the Iranian/NLB case, but that of Janša’s SDS party and the 450,000 EUR loan it received from Dijana Đuđić, a 32-year-old Bosnian Serb woman.
Two key extracts set the scene. The first describes the spiral of debt that can take over a political party in Slovenia, now that donations from corporations are illegal:
...the primary source of a political party’s income are budget funds which are allocated in accordance with the result in various elections (parliamentary, local, etc…). Which means that a party which takes out a large loan and then flops at the ballot box is saddled with this huge debt which it cannot service. And if (or rather, when) elections follow one another year on year, this can pretty much become a vicious circle.
This issue is even more pressing at the moment, since, at Pengovsky notes:
...the country will hold four nationwide elections in a span of little more than a year and a half. It all started with presidential elex [sic] in November 2017 and will end with European election in mid-2019. In between, we’re up for parliamentary vote in early Summer and municipal elections in late Autumn. In short, if you’re are a CFO of a political party, this will be a year of hell.
It's in this context that the SDS, hungry for money, may have become involved in a money-laundering scheme:
…as a collateral [for the loan] the SDS provided its 44-percent share in a publishing company Nova Obzorja which, among other things, publishes Demokracija, a magazine considered the unofficial party mouthpiece.
Not long ago, the majority stake in this publisher was acquired by Ripost, a Hungarian media conglomerate circling in close orbit around Victor Orban. Companies connected to the Hungarian populist leader also acquired a majority stake in Nova24TV, another SDS mouthpiece and Fox-news-wannabe (basically bailing out a project that was about to go tits-up due to lack of financing).
And thus we come to the alleged deal, which Pengovsky outlines as follows:
A Hungarian actor wants to clear half a million and transfers it to Republic of Srpska (which is apparently the tax haven of the Balkans). An individual there loans the money at a laughable interest and/or collateral to Janša’s party which in turn spends much of the money for advertising in the media it co-owns with (nominally different?) Hungarian entity. The money then re-enters Hungary as a profit from a Slovenian venture, thereby being cleaned. Along the way everyone takes a cut but the Hungarians get their hand on the rest of SDS media machinery, now exerting complete control over the right-wing media landscape in Slovenia. It’s a sweet fucking deal. Hypothetically, of course.
The whole piece can be found here with a lot more context and detail, and like all of Pengovsky it’s well worth your time.