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Belgrade Mayor Failed to Declare Villa Bought in Trieste

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Belgrade Mayor Aleksandar Sapic has failed to report to Serbia’s Agency for the Prevention of Corruption a villa he bought in 2018 in Trieste, which he was obliged to do by law, BIRN can reveal. The villa is located in Opicina, some five kilometres from Trieste city centre.

According to Italian cadastre data, Sapic owns four properties in this location. One is a 13-room villa covering 387 square meters. A second is a 127-square-meter garage/utility room. A third is an access road whose ownership he shares with another owner. The fourth is the forest that surrounds the house with a total area of almost 6,200 square meters of which he is part-owner. Sapic owns 4.35 per cent of the forest along with 30 other co-owners.

According to documents that BIRN has obtained, Sapic signed a sales contract for a villa with Marta Prioglio on May 30, 2018. He bought the real estate for 820,000 euros, paying 735,000 for the villa and 85,000 for the garage.

When Sapic bought the villa in 2018 he was president of the New Belgrade municipality in the capital. He was elected Belgrade’s mayor in June 2022, after the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS – whose list he was leading – won a majority of votes in local elections.

While Sapic’s ownership of the villa is visible in the Italian cadastre as seen by BIRN, it is not listed in the property and income register of the Serbian Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, to which public officials are required to report all changes in their property status.

According to BIRN’s findings, in his last report from July 2022, after he was elected mayor of Belgrade, Sapic reported ownership of two items of real estate, one of 150 square meters and the other of 98 square metres.

Sapic did not answer BIRN’s phone calls or emails on the issue by time of publication.

The first report after the purchase of the villa is dated January 22, 2019, in which Sapic reported many real estate holdings, including a 380-square-meter building.

However, Sapic reported that building, of similar square footage to the one in Opicina, in a previous report from June 2017, before buying the villa in Italy, as well as in earlier reports he submitted years ago. From that it can be concluded that this building is not the same one as the one bought in Italy.

According to BIRN findings, all the reports Sapic submitted to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption state that he does not have any funds in bank accounts either in Serbia or abroad.

Sapic is a former water polo star and a former member of the Democratic Party. In the 2018 elections in Belgrade, he ran as an independent candidate and won 9 per cent of the votes, coming third behind the opposition list of Dragan Djilas and the SNS, led by Aleksandar Vucic, now President of Serbia.

His success grew out of his popularity as a sportsman, but also from his position as head of the New Belgrade municipality, the largest in the capital with more than 200,000 people, where he was elected mayor twice, in 2012 and in 2016.

His popularity was also partly due to a perception that he opposed the SNS’s regime.

In the 2020 parliamentary elections, which were boycotted by the opposition, Sapic’s newly formed Serbian Patriotic Alliance, SPAS, won 4 per cent. He then decided to join the SNS-SPS government.

In May 2021, SPAS officially joined the SNS and ceased to exist as a party, while Sapic became a vice-president of the SNS’s main board.

Source : Balkan Insight