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Investigation Into “Salary Paid In An Envelope”

Prosecutors investigate Tuzla entrepreneurs for off-the-books salary payments amid suspected tax evasion, as previously reported by CIN.
Photo: Dženat Dreković (CIN)

The Tuzla Canton Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into Abdulah Avdagić, the owner of RIVA and Robni terminal, his wife, Zlata Avdagić, and employees of these companies on suspicion of tax evasion.

The investigation was launched following the publication of a CIN’s story uncovering the long-standing practice of the Avdagić family distributing money to employees in envelopes.

“This investigation was launched in May 2023 and is now in its final stage,” said Admir Arnautović, spokesperson for the Tuzla Canton Prosecutor’s Office, adding that a prosecutorial decision in this case will be made soon.

The investigation, as he said, also includes two employees from the company’s accounting department who assisted the Avdagić family in committing the criminal offense, namely, who “handled the payment of these under-the-table salaries”.

Up to this point, the prosecution has interviewed over 30 witnesses and, based on their statements and supporting documentation, gathered evidence indicating that, between June 2021 and November 2022, around 190,000 BAM in taxes were evaded in this way.

Workers Trapped In A Vicious Circle of Blue Envelopes
Businessman Abdulah Avdagić from Tuzla has been paying employees cash in envelopes for years. The employees claim it is the salary to which no taxes have been paid, the employer claims it is a gift, while the Prosecutor’s Office is investigating allegations of tax evasion.

The Avdagić family – Abdulah, Zlata, and their daughter Amila – are owners and managers of several companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia involved in transportation, distribution, wholesale, retail, and real estate rental, and they also operate dozens of kiosks throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Reporters from CIN interviewed nine employees of the Avdagić family, who revealed that they had been receiving a portion of their salary in cash and another portion deposited into their bank accounts for several years. Monthly pay slips of Riva and Robni terminal employees that were shared with the reporters contained the following sections: “agreed salary”, “payment via bank” and “an envelope”. Amounts paid through the bank and cash in the envelope add up to the agreed salary.

Nevertheless, Damir Alagić, the lawyer representing the Avdagić family, asserted during the interview that his clients were not disbursing salaries but were providing gifts that are not taxable.

“Millionaires who are paying minimum wage to people – paying a gift each month, it’s ridiculous. That’s not a gift, it’s a salary in an envelope”, remarked Emir Baraković, a former RIVA employee, to reporters at the time.

He disclosed receiving 1,300 BAM in his account and an additional 500 BAM in cash, emphasizing: “You need money to live, you have bills to pay, you need to bring food to the table, to make a living. For this reason, not only I, but all other people agreed to that part of the salary in the envelope. You simply have no choice”.

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