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“Grey Cash Register” in Jahorina

Aparthotel Vučko in Jahorina has been keeping a “parallel ledger” to hide the real income from apartment rentals and restaurant operations, thus avoiding paying tax and tourist tax for guests.

Vučko, the largest aparthotel complex in Jahorina, has been renting apartments for years without declaring income from this activity. According to internal business reports, this complex had thousands of overnight stays that were never reported to the competent institutions, hence the pertaining tax and tourist tax have never been paid.

Aparthotel Vučko has about 300 apartments, most of which have been sold to individuals and companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the region. A certain number of owners agreed with the hotel to sublet their apartments, but the hotel hid the actual number of guests and earnings from them.

Former employees and co-owners of the company Club Aparthotel Vučko, the company that runs this hotel’s operations, testified to CIN reporters about the undeclared guests. Paying guests of Vučko were often presented in the ledger as guests of privately owned apartments who were staying there for free.

“The guests were systematically diverted to them, they took cash and put all the costs of food and drinks, apartment cleaning, etc. to the hotel expenses,” says BiH businessman from Moscow, Dragan Đordan, one of the financiers of the apartment project.

According to him, behind this irregular business are his partners, father and son, Milomir and Aleksandar Bato Prović from Pale, who run this complex. Reports from the overnight stay recording system suggest that these irregularities have been going on for years, and on a large scale.

Aleksandar Prović did not deny these irregularities, but instead, he blamed them on the staff, claiming that they were stealing from the hotel. According to him, anyone could have written anything in the overnight stay records.

Although he promised CIN reporters evidence in support of his allegations, he never submitted anything.

"Vučko” Made Off With Millions From State Land
Falsified documents, deceived partners, and millions in debt – these all were the controversies that for decades followed the construction and operations of the Vučko Hotel complex in Jahorina managed by father and son Prović. The municipal authorities made it possible for them to misappropriate state land, while the Entity authorities gave them millions in loans, which are now being repaid by Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, the Prović family hid millions in profit.

Some of the private apartment owners did not even know that their properties in Vučko were being rented out. They reported this to the police in Republika Srpska (RS) in 2019, stating that Aleksandar Prović was subletting their apartments illicitly, whereby he damaged the budget by more than one million BAM in taxes.

Aleksandar Prović has been running the hotel business in Vučko for two decades (Photo: CIN)

Former and current employees reported the Provićs for the same thing, stating that tax evasion in this hotel is a routine. Đordan also reported them for economic crime, tax evasion, falsification of documents, and fraud.

In August 2022, the District Prosecutor’s Office in Istočno Sarajevo dropped all the charges due to lack of evidence, with the explanation that the acts they committed do not constitute crime.

A cash business

Ever since the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games, Jahorina has been a must-visit destination for winter sports enthusiasts. For some twenty years, this mountain hosts one of the most modern ski centers in southeastern Europe. The rich offer attracts about half a million tourists from all over the world every year to enjoy the snow that Jahorina offers them.

Every winter, dozens of thousands of guests stay in the aparthotel complex Vučko.

The apartments were built by the company Club Aparthotel Vučko, with financial investments by Dragan Đordan and Prović’s cousin and businessman from Serbia, Mirko Tica, while their children share co-ownership in the company with the Provićs. They first started selling the apartments in 2013. In an interview with CIN reporters, Aleksandar Prović said that Đordan and Tica were initially dissatisfied with how the sale was going, which is why they decided to put the apartments into the hotel business through the company Club Aparthotel Vučko.

Not agreeing with this, Prović said he withdrew from the business: “This is where the problems occurred. I thought I had the most experience with this business, and I still feel the same, but I had little say in how certain things were done.”

However, according to the documents, he continued to manage the hotel complex as the president of the Board of Directors of Club Aparthotel Vučko, while his sister Ana Kovačević was the director of the company.

Đordan says that the business was not making any profit. For this reason, he hired a new management with Tica hoping to start making a profit. Already in the first years, Đordan and his son Bojan noticed that financial statements were reporting huge expenses for food, cleaning, and maintenance, while the number of guests in the apartments was dropping.

“The food quantities were far greater than needed, and the number of people dining was far greater than registered”, said Đordan.

Zoran Miljuš, who worked as the finance director of the Aparthotel until 2019, admitted that there were irregularities in apartment letting, but according to him, the reason for this was undefined relations among the owners. The aparthotel had contracts with some of the apartment owners, whom they paid around three thousand euros a year, but with most, they had no regulated business relations.

“Well, that’s what the hotel offered them. We drew up contracts with them, committing to pay them that amount”, explained Miljuš.

CIN reporters called dozens of apartment owners, but most did not answer, and only a few agreed to speak. Some claimed not to let their apartments but to use them for private purposes. Some said the hotel “offered them small money” to rent their apartments relative to what they could make, hence they refused to enter the contracts with Vučko.”

“Only God knows how much they made. They are in such a position that they could literally blackmail you”, said Đorđo Tutnjević, one of the apartment owners who did not agree to sign the contract with Vučko.

Others, on the other hand, signed contracts. The apartment owner Ljubica Jurić says that she made her apartment available to the hotel for 4,000 euros per year and that she does not know when or how many guests stay there.

Despite the signed contracts, according to the 2018 business report, Club Aparthotel Vučko owed tens of thousands of marks to 15 private apartment owners with whom it had rental contracts. These apartment owners did not answer the calls from reporters.

Dragan Đordan invested BAM 12 million in the construction of apartments in Jahorina (Photo: CIN)

Prović and his two sisters are also the owners of six apartments, which, as Đordan claimed, they rented out while keeping the money to themselves: “When guests were staying in their apartments, they ordered [the staff] not to register them as guests but to record them as the apartment owners.“

Hoteliers are obliged to charge each guest a 3-BAM tourist tax per day, which goes to the budget. Also, owners of private apartments in Jahorina are required to pay an annual residence tax of 50 BAM per bed. The total number of beds is reported to the Building Categorization Commission of Istočno Sarajevo.

Commission President Đorđe Majkalović says that Vučko has about thirty private apartments that have been categorized as such. In his view, it would be logical that all apartments in Vučko are rented through the hotel reception, but no one can force the private owners to do so. Hence, the renting cannot be controlled.

“This brings us to the situation where people rent “off-the-record” privately owned apartments  (…) and someone brings in guests into the hotel and registers them in a separate ledger, different from the official ledger of Vučko hotel”, said Majkalović.

Undeclared guests

“The guest will pay 920 euro. Of this amount, charge for breakfast! An envelope with money for breakfast is next to the ‘gray cash register’”. This was just one of many notes that receptionists had been leaving over the years of their work in Club Aparthotel Vučko.

These notes were written in the “Opera Fidelio” computer system, which they used for booking and renting rooms and apartments. According to the system, the privately owned apartments were occupied by the owner’s guests free of charge, but the notes left by receptionists reveal that they were, however, charged for the accommodation.

“Parallel Hotel” is how Dragan and Bojan Đordan described the operations of the Aparthotel. According to them, in one year the staff of Aparthotel served and prepared food for guests in 75 apartments, while overnight stay was charged in 22 apartments. This way, in one season, one could make BAM 40,000 on one apartment only.

Vesko Savić, an acquaintance and fellow citizen of Aleksandar Prović was one of the brokers renting private apartments in cash. Đordan gave the CIN reporters a recording of a telephone conversation between a man from Belgrade and Savić, in which they discussed the reservation of an apartment in Vučko in 2015.

Savić proposed that they should meet and “avoid going to the reception”. He offered him accommodation for 75 euros. “I’ll make you a good price”, Savić said. Savić did not answer the calls from reporters.

The current price of an apartment in Vučko is 250 BAM a day. (Photo: Facebook “Aparthotel Vučko”)

The former director of Vučko, Miloš Pešić, says that he couldn’t guess what exactly Savić was doing:

“Could it be that Vesko was sitting, drinking coffee in Paradis (cafe in the hotel, author’s note), and waiting for guests to come and hand him an envelope so that he would give them the key in return? All I can say is it is possible.”

Receptionists’ notes in the “Opera Fidelio” system are saying that the renting of privately owned apartments was done by the Provićs, Vladimir Stanković and Marko Uskoković, Tica’s sons-in-law who took turns in the positions of director and deputy director of the company Club Aparthotel Vučko.

“Anyone could write anything there”, said Prović, adding that the hotel staff so covered themselves as they were stealing from the hotel. When asked about who these workers were, he replied: “Bojan Stanojević and the management that ran the hotel at the time.” Prović also accused both Pešić and Miljuš.

In 2014, representatives of the company that runs the “Fidelio” operating system analyzed the operations at Vučko and discovered that the hotel was writing off huge amounts of alcohol and food through the “Coffee and cake” standard. The standards in hospitality mean the ingredients needed to make a dish or drink, with the exact amount and cost of each ingredient. However, under the “Coffee and cake” standard, Vučko entered ingredients that should not be part of these products, such as wine, cognac, brandy, and whiskey… In this way, these goods were registered as consumed, and could be then sold “under the counter”.

“I am shocked by such allegations”, said Stanojević from the Belgrade company “IBM Consult”, which was in charge of hotel operations from 2012 to 2014. According to Stanojević, the then management had no access to finances, and they only dealt with the operational management of the hotel.

“We had absolutely nothing to do with money the entire time we were running the hotel. (…) I didn’t want to be a responsible person or to have anything to do with finances precisely because we saw all sorts of things happening there. Bata’s sister (Ana Kovačević, author’s note) was the director and exclusively responsible for all the payments, said Stanojević. Ana Kovačević did not speak for CIN.

Stunned by the accusation, Pešić said: “I knew all sorts of things were going on there before I came.”

Prović also accused Miljuš, who was very meticulous in keeping financial reports: “Order, work, and analysis reduces the space for manipulation, and that’s what I did. The company had a cumulative loss of one million and two hundred thousand when I joined, and I was fired in the year when the company made a cumulative profit of 300 thousand.”

The current director of the company, Marko Uskoković, did not respond to calls from reporters, while his colleague Vladimir Stanković denied renting out apartments “under the counter”, adding that the private owners were renting their apartments themselves.

The head of the hotel’s accounting office Gordana Sikima confirmed that the Provićs kept the money from letting privately owned apartments. She made a report of this and shared it with the Đordans. They warned the Provićs and asked them to return the money to the company, but they never did.

The workers who reported them to investigative authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina claimed to have witnessed the Provićs destroying compromising documentation and trying to cover up traces of criminal acts.

“Let them look for a culprit if they need a culprit. I will not get into whether someone stole something or not”, said Aleksandar Prović.

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