Balkan businessman Naser Kelmendi—whom law enforcement agencies in the region depict as the leader of a powerful criminal organization—has reported earning a minimal wage in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). He also owns companies around Sarajevo but they all lose money.
Kelmendi has placed himself on the list of employees of his Hotel Casa Grande in a Sarajevo suburb of Ilidža, with a monthly salary of around 360 KM, according to the documents the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) has acquired. That was the minimum wage in BiH.
Kelmendi moved to Sarajevo in 1988. He left it during the 1992-1995 war and came back in 1998 when he received Bosnian citizenship. Until 2006, there is no record of his paying income tax. Meanwhile, his assets have increased substantially.
Between 1999 and 2009, he bought real property in Sarajevo for almost 1.7 million KM. Along with this, his Adolado ice cream factory, was estimated to be worth nearly 4.3 million KM.
The Court of BiH ordered Kelmendi’s hotel, four houses and an apartment frozen in June. His factory in the suburb of Hadžići near Sarajevo was not frozen because a firm incorporated by his half-brother Bećir Kelmendi has claimed it.
The BiH Prosecutor’s Office wrote in its request to freeze his assets that Kelmendi bought his properties with narcotics proceeds. He was arrested in Priština this May after prosecutors sent Interpol the paperwork incriminating him in the murder of Ramiz Delalić Ćelo and drug smuggling.
The Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office interrogated Kelmendi in the summer of 2007 under the same allegations. He denied any connection to Ćelo’s murder, and he said he had never dealt in drugs, that he hated drugs and everything connected to them. He described himself as a businessman who dealt in hospitality and ice cream. .
However, these two businesses brought no profit to Kelmendi that explains his real property spree in Sarajevo.
He Got his Start with Fur and Gold
According to what he told the prosecutors Kelmendi came to Sarajevo for the first time in 1988. He opened a fur parlor and a gold shop in the Skenderija mall, both under the name of Miss Donna.
In 2002, Kelmendi came up with an idea to start a hospitality business and ice-cream factory. He told prosecutors that from 1999 up to that year he had a Kosovo firm that sold cigarettes. He tried to open up the same business in Sarajevo, but failed to obtain a license.
He started working on his new business ideas in in June 2004 when he acquired Hotel Casa Grande at Ilidža. He bought it from Sarajevo businessman Ismet Omerbegović for 900,000 KM. However, the hotel was assessed at around 1.7 million KM for which Kelmendi paid a property tax.
Hotel Casa Grande has not been profitable. Last year the firm showed a profit of 32,000 KM against 33,000 KM of debt to suppliers. Financial reports show that in the past nine years the hotel has had an average annual loss of around 70,000 KM.
Neither did Kelmendi make a name for himself with Adolado, which he started a year after his hospitality firm. The headquarters of his factory was first in one of Kelmendi’s houses on Ilidža, before he moved into Hadžići. A year later in 2006, he announced the sale of the factory in the yellow pages of one real property agency.
The firm, according to the Sarajevo land registry, still owns business facilities in Hadžići of 2,369 square meters worth 4.3 million KM.
After a failed sale, Adolado mortgaged the Hadžići factory for two loans worth 200,000 KM with a Banja Luka Nova Bank AD in 2011.
Since its inception in 2005, the ice-cream factory never showed a profit and the loans didn’t change that. According to the financial reports, Adolado ended the last year with the 88,000 KM of losses and a debt to suppliers of 867,000 KM.
Apart from the property in BiH, Kelmendi owns substantial assets in Montenegro and Kosovo on which CIN has reported. In 2009, he invested money in building a Casa Grande Hotel in the Montenegrin resort town of Ulcinj where he owns several apartments as well. Two of his sons run a gas station and a chain of gold shops in Kosovo. Kelmendi’s property in Montenegro and Kosovo is not frozen.
In May, BiH filed an extradition warrant for Naser Kelmendi. State prosecutors say that Kosovo authorities have not responded.