Lawsuit for Land in Stanari Thrown Out

Court has thrown out a lawsuit that legal representatives of Non-metal Mine Stanari filed against EFT –Mine and Power Plant Stanari.

District Commercial Court in Doboj has thrown out a lawsuit which legal representatives of the minority stockholders of the joint-stock company Non-metal Mine Stanari filed last July against EFT – Mine and Power Plant Stanari LLC.

The litigation tried to settle 267 hectares of land under which lies lignite worth billions of KM. The land used to belong to the joint-stock company and today is in the hands of the Stanari Mine. Once they were business partners.

Legal Battle for Stanari Land

In February 2005, the old company Stanari Lignite Mine JSC set up a new company EFT Group – Stanari Lignite Mine together with a Danish-based EFT (Holdings) Aps. EFT held two-third of the shares, while the JSC held the rest. EFT contributed cash to the new company, while the Mine contributed equipment, buildings and around 18 ha of land. Expert witness Mira Vasić from Doboj appraised the value and the amount of land.

In June 2006, the government of Republika Srpska (RS), as the majority owner of Non-metal Mne Stanari JSC, passed a decision to sell its co-ownership in the newly-formed firm for 10.5 million KM. However, the money could not save the JSC which was meanwhile renamed as Non-metals Mine Stanari.

In Jan. 2007, several months after the partners parted their ways and when the joint-stock company stopped work, the expert witness Vasić made an addendum to her earlier appraisal report related to the land. Vasić added to the original appraisal another 267 ha. She wrote that this land represents overburden, that is overlaying soil and rock that must be removed to get to the ore, and she concluded that because of this its value was 0 KM. The report made no mention about the amount and value of underground lignite.

Meanwhile, EFT’s firm in Stanari was renamed in EFT – Mine and Power Plant Stanari LLC. It took over the land and continued excavation of coal, while buying still more land from the locals. Nowadays, it owns more than 454 ha of land in Stanari.

The issue of adequate compensation was reignited when the Non-metal Mine Stanari JSC went into bankruptcy in June 2012.

Lawyer Marko Dragić, one of the Mines legal representatives, filed a lawsuit against EFT – Mine and Power Plant Stanari on behalf of the joint-stock company. In the lawsuit he demanded that the land be returned to the joint-stock company or that JSC be compensated from the coal excavation profits.

During the trial, a financial expert witness from Šamac, Lazo Đurđević, calculated that EFT made a turnaround of 65,494,780 KM between 2007 and mid-2014. However, Đurđević said that it cannot be discerned how much of this money was made by excavating ore from the land in question “since there are no records as to from which cadaster plots was ore extracted during the said period.“ The expert witness also said in its report that it is not clear how it was possible to take all the Mine’s property off the books, including the land in question.

At lawyer Dragić’s observation that such document did not exist and that taking off property from the books was illegal, the expert witness Đurđević said: “Every bookkeeping change that might have been done without a valid documentation — this one notwithstanding — is illegal. And this taking off the books, if there was no paperwork when it was done – which I cannot know as an expert witness – would have been illegal.”

EFT’s legal representative Siniša Đorđević said that there was no basis for the lawsuit and that it should be thrown out. Justice Stojaković agreed and threw out the lawsuit saying that, if there was an issue with taking property off the books, it should had been the subject of an administrative review earlier. The judge went on to say that this issue cannot be linked to the bankruptcy proceedings since this land has never been a part of the bankruptcy estate and would thus cause damages to the creditors.

Non-metal Mine may appeal to the Higher Commercial Court in Banja Luka within 15 days starting with the publishing of verdict and must pay 12,785 KM in court expenses.