Пет. дец 9th, 2022

Led by Svetislav Bulatović: How the Balkan electricity reserves disappeared

Last year, companies owned by Serbian electricity trader Svetislav Bulatović accumulated debt to regional system operators in the amount of over 25 million KM without the possibility of debt collection. In contrast to Croatia and Serbia, this information, as well as the fact that a criminal complaint for business fraud was initiated against the former director of Bulatović’s company “LE Trading BH”, was not an obstacle for BH regulators to issue a new license for international electricity trade.

 

The companies “Energia Gas and Power” Belgrade, “Energia Gas and Power” Zagreb and “LE Trading BH” Banja Luka, directly or indirectly owned by Svetislav Bulatović, a key figure in the electricity trade in the Balkans for a decade, last year accumulated millions of debts towards transmission operators system in the region to EMS in Serbia, HOPS in Croatia and NOS in BIH.

 

The “modus operandi” of the operations of these private companies on the Balkan electricity market is most evident in the business cooperation of the company “LE Trading BH” Banja Luka with the Independent Operator of the BIH system “NOSBIH”. This business cooperation ultimately resulted in a criminal complaint against the director Jovan Dević and the owner Svetislav Bulatović by the former management of the BH operator.

 

NOSBIH, whose work is supervised by the State Regulatory Commission for Electricity, SERC, is the key mechanism for managing the balanced electricity market.

 

Therefore, every company that intends to engage in production, supply or trade in electricity on the wholesale market is obliged to assume balancing responsibility or choose a balancing group that will be financially responsible for the operations of that company on the market. That party responsible for the balance signs a contract with NOSBIH, which aims to regulate the collection of “imbalance” costs on the network that occurs when suppliers deliver electricity to their consumers.

Photo: NOSBIH

In other words, if the factory is supplied with electricity by LE Trading 4.4. in 2021, 10 MW of electricity will be delivered, LE Trading BH is obliged to submit the arrangement schedule to NOSBIH a day earlier in order to be included in the daily schedule. If the customer consumes less or more than 10 MW, LE Trading BH will be responsible for that. In practice, it happens that more or less electricity is consumed than the amount reported the day before in the daily schedule. In this case, in order to preserve the energy infrastructure and the balance of the system, NOS BIH compensates for the lack of electricity from reserves that are kept exclusively for this purpose.

 

Premeditated: Chronology of the million-dollar robbery

 

For this reason, NOSBIH, balance responsible parties send daily schedules in which the daily production, consumption and delivery of electricity are specified and coordinated, and at the end of the month, NOSBIH calculates and invoices the costs incurred by withdrawing and using reserves.

 

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint, Bulatović’s company LE Trading BH in Bosnia and Herzegovina was registered as a licensed supplier of electricity and as the balance responsible party. In the course of 2021, this company had signed contracts with a fixed price of electricity for the delivery to the companies BSI Jajce and Aluminij Industries Mostar, which bought 30 MW of electricity from LE Trading BH on a daily basis.

 

In the middle of 2021, after the jump in prices on the world market, LE Trading BH had no interest in supplying electricity at fixed prices that were drastically lower than market prices. In such an atmosphere, since July 2021, LE Trading BH has been providing smaller quantities of energy than the needs of its customers, and the shortage in deliveries has been compensated by NOSBIH reserves.

 

At that moment, LE Trading BH started submitting false daily schedules to NOSBIH with incorrect data on purchased and sold energy. Considering the fact that the control system is designed with calculation on a monthly basis, it was determined that in July 2021, in this way, LE Trading BH created an imbalance in the amount of 3.4 million KM. Additional checks established that this practice continued in August 2021.

 

The principle is the same, everything else is nuanced

 

In September 2021, NOSBIH and LE Trading sign a debt reprogram that was ultimately not collected. After the payment of 285 thousand KM and the activation of a bank guarantee of 221 thousand KM, the blocking of the account and the revocation of the license, the company LE Trading goes into bankruptcy, and since it has no movable or immovable assets, NOSBIH does not initiate enforcement proceedings.

 

Elektromrež Srbije did not want to specify the amount of the debt of the company “Energia Gas and Power” Belgrade. They point out that due to the inability to settle the debt in Republika Serbia, this company is denied the possibility of further trading.

 

“In addition to undertaking all activities within its competence, EMS AD initiated appropriate procedures before the court authorities with the aim of collecting claims, and these procedures are ongoing.”

 

According to information from HOPS, the Croatian transmission system operator’s sister company “Energia Gas and Power” registered in Zagreb, has accumulated a debt in the amount of 40 million HRK or 10 million KM.

 

Croatian transmission system operator/photo: HOPS

HEP in the amount of 8.9 million HRK, the Croatian Energy Market Operator in the amount of 2.6 million HRK, as well as the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Croatia have claims against the company Energia Gas and Power Zagreb.

 

The bankruptcy estate of the company “Energia Gas and Power” in Croatia will not be sufficient to collect the claims of all creditors.

 

Today, all three of Bulatović’s companies registered in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which participated in the markets, are in the bankruptcy process without the possibility for transmission system operators to collect their claims both from the bankruptcy estate and from bank guarantees. Ultimately, these millions of debts, according to official reports, burdened the operations of all three state operators.

 

The holy trinity of Balkan energy: Bulatović, Hamović, Lazarević

 

Not long after the liquidation of the companies that accumulated debts towards the national transmission system operators, the staff of Bulatović’s parent company “LE Trading AS” registered in Slovakia on the territory of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are positioned in responsible positions of branches of the company called “Renewable energy solutions”, also registered in Slovakia.

 

According to the Slovak register of business entities, the company Renewable energy solutions s.r.o. operated under the name Elmako-Energy s.r.o. until December 2021.

 

Officially, the company Renewable energy solutions s.r.o. is 100 per cent owned by Ivan Jevtić, while the director is Tamara Barta Šmitran.

 

It was Tamara Barta Šmitran and Vedran Šmitran who were the directors of Energia Gas and Power Zagreb. Today, Vedran Šmitran holds the position of director of the company Renewable Energy Solutions Zagreb.

 

In addition to these positions, in mid-2010, Tamara Barta Šmitran was also a key person in the functioning of the company “Rundap Zagreb”, then owned by Vojin Lazarević, whose operations in the energy sector are connected to a number of scandals.

 

In this context, it is important to note that by taking over Elmako Energy s.r.o., the Slovakian company Renewable energy solutions became the owner of the company Elmako-energy Beograd, which operates in the Republic of Serbia and already has a license to trade in electricity.

 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the owners of the company Renewable energy Solution Banja Luka entered into the court register are the Slovak parent company and Jovan Dević, the former director of LE Trading BH, against whom the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Banja Luka is officially conducting the investigation.

 

Data on the debt of LE Trading BH as well as the investigation against one of the owners of this company did not prevent the regulatory authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina from issuing a license for domestic and international electricity trade to the company Renewable energy solutions BH. The Electricity Regulatory Commission of Republika Srpska issued a license to this company in June of this year, while SERK – the state regulator – shortly thereafter began the process of issuing a temporary license for international trade.

 

When asked by the Tačno.net portal, SERC replied that in the process of issuing a license, they only check the fulfilment of the criteria and conditions of the financial, technical and organizational nature of the legal entity to which the license for international electricity trade will be granted.

 

Are there any candidates for the position of director?

 

Ironically, it was NOSBIH, after suing Jovan Dević under the leadership of SNSD director Nemanja Pandurević, that in July of this year signed an agreement on Balanced Liability with the company Renewable energy solutions.

 

Along with the fact that the guarantee for the new contract in the amount of 2.1 million KM is issued by Adriatic bank Podgorica, whose owners, according to the Montenegrin media, after taking over the Nikšić Ironworks owed 2.7 million euros to the financial institutions of Montenegro.

Nemanja Pandurević and Staša Košarac/photo: MVTEO

In an interview with the Tačno.net portal, Jovan Dević points out that he is not familiar with the details of the criminal complaint and therefore cannot comment on the allegations. As he emphasizes, his role in the business of LE Trading BH was very limited.

 

“My management role, as the responsible person of LE Trading BH, was very limited and the entire contracting, procurement and sale of electricity and complete management of all Group companies was done by the top management. In this context, Marina Vulić was mentioned as the COO of the LE Trading group of companies. However, the disruptions that occurred in the market were such that neither she nor anyone else in her position could essentially do anything, as evidenced by dozens of European energy companies that failed to withstand the unprecedented shocks this and last year in the energy market.”

 

Speaking about the reasons for the bankruptcy, Dević emphasizes that the decision for this move was made in Bratislava in November 2021 due to losses and the difference in purchase and contracted prices. As he claims, due to accumulated losses, illiquidity as well as the impossibility for the banks to monitor the financial situation, the management made the decision to liquidate all companies.

 

Vojin Lazarević/ photo: Zoran Žestić-Tanjug

Dević could neither confirm nor deny the unconfirmed information that Vojin Lazarević, the founder of EFT and the former owner of the Rudnap company, is behind the company. He emphasizes that Svetislav Bulatović is not in the ownership structures, but as he emphasizes, he is involved in the work of the Renewable energy solution company as a consultant.

 

“The owners of the company hired Mr Svetislav Bulatović, Doctor of Technical Sciences, as an external consultant. It is generally known that Mr Bulatović is one of the biggest experts in the energy sector in the entire region, with vast knowledge and decades of experience. He is one of the pioneers of the liberalization of the energy market in the Balkan region and managed many large and strategic projects. Mr Bulatović held management positions in large state-owned companies, as well as co-owner of the EFT company, and I don’t think any additional explanation is needed as to why he was hired.”

 

The founders of EFT, Vojin Lazarević, Vuk Hamović, and Svetislav Bulatović, have been under investigation by the competent Prosecutor’s Offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as the Serious Fraud Office of Great Britain “SFO” for the past two decades. None of the investigations led to indictments.

 

The criminal complaint against Svetislav Bulatović and Jovan Dević, which was submitted to the BIH Prosecutor’s Office by the previous administration of NOS BIH, was forwarded to the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

 

As we were informed by this institution, the case is with the acting prosecutor who has been absent for a long period of time for health reasons.

 

Until the publication of this text, Mr Bulatović did not respond to Tačno.net’s request for an interview.

 

In the second part of the text, we present the story of the formation of the BiH model of “Virtual Power Plants” as well as the consequences of political influence on the work of NOS BIH.

Writes: Predrag Blagovčanin/Tačno.net

 

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