Bank clerks and businessmen-loan fraudsters
 20.05.2016 Kiraca Trajkovska from “Fersped", with the help of bank clerks employed at Komercijalna banka, took part in a financial scheme involving approving loans to businessmen, who had not used the money at all, but still ended up with debts of several hundred thousand euros to repay such loans. Other citizens and company owners have been defrauded by means of loans and borrowings, too, and they have decided to report the cases to "Transparency International" and the Ministry of Interior; those cases are currently being investigated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. State institutions and the judiciary are also involved in the bank loans scheme!

The organization “Transparency International-Macedonia" has received three reports relating to the operation of Komercijalna banka in the last three months. The reports concerns loans that the bank approves to its clients, only to use them later on for money laundering purposes. All cases are linked by the fact that the citizens have been implicated in a criminal system of concealed crediting, borrowings, and assignments, all in view of enabling an organized group to profit at the detriment of company owners whose signatures and documents have been forged and misused. Currently the Public Prosecutor’s Office is undertaking activities to identify the persons and companies behind such cases, which validate the absence of integrity in the financial sector. First of all, it has found that the bank’s employees are involved in the fraudulent transactions. All of the cases bear many similarities and show how the “gullible” citizens, who have rightfully put their trust in the bank, have been misused by powerful figures and consequently have got stuck with huge loans, since they are the nominal loan beneficiaries, but haven't used the money, i.e. the money has always ended up on somebody else's account, once again as instructed by the key players.


Fifteen years ago, Vojo Tatabitovski Artnik, who, as a young man, wanted to use his capacity and energy to expand his business, swallowed the bait of the group of fraudsters. At one time, Kiraca Trajkovska from "Fersped” confided to him that she was planning to start a new business in Skopje with a foreign investor, in the field of information technology, and that, taking into account her managerial position in other companies, she allegedly preferred not to overexpose herself, hence, she suggested to Artnik to take up the leadership.  He stated that, at the time, he had not minded managing another business in addition to his company “Eureka”, also working in the IT sector. 
How did the fraud start? Trajkovska used her relationship with Sasha Tvrtkovikj, an employee of the credit department at Komercijalna banka. Artnik was referred to his office to agree a bank loan. 
- Without knowing the business plan of the new company, I just signed the documents, since I trusted Trajkovska, and I expected an honest and professional treatment from the bank clerk, too. As agreed, I was supposed to be a manager, and not an owner of the company. Thus, I took lightly the decision to sign all documents, which, in practice, amounted to taking the first loan, Artnik said.
Since the new company did not exist as a legal entity, the loan funds were deposited at the account of "Eureka”. Artnik believed that he would expand his business and had not even assumed that today, a decade after, he would be indebted, i.e. that he would have to pay back a loan of which he had not spent a single dime. “Fersped” appears as a loan guarantor, by virtue of a document that Trajkovska provided and furnished to the bank. However, immediately after the money (EUR 250 thousand) had been received, Artnik was instructed by the company he managed - "Eureka" - to transfer the funds at an account of a company owned by Trajkovska. He had done so, but he was not aware that the money would then disappear, and that he would remain indebted to the bank. 
- The time was passing, but nothing was going on, the money vanished and nobody informed me at all. I found myself in a situation where I could not even start to repay the loan. Thus, I had to sign loan rescheduling document so as to defer the repayment. It was followed by a second rescheduling, also agreed between Trajkovska and employees of the bank. However, due to reasons unclear to me, the next day new EUR 300 thousand were deposited at "Eureka's" account, and on the very same day those funds were once again transferred to their accounts, most likely with the assistance of the bank clerks, while I was told that Trajkovska would repay us those funds in four instalments, Artnik recollected. 
The initial two instalments had been paid to the account of "Eureka", but it was not the case with the last two instalments. Although those funds had not been paid, the bank stopped asking for the last two installments, and after a while Artnik found out that the loan had been repaid by the guarantor, "Fersped", and that he had entered into a debtor-creditor relationship with the company, which then requested him to pay it back. Practically, he owes "Fersped" money that he has neither seen nor used. Now he has a debt of €200 thousand to the guarantor, in addition to the initial loan of €250 thousand.
Taking into account the fact that Artnik signed the documents for one purpose, while they were used for another purpose, i.e. for the purposes of approval of a loan that he never even intended to request, he tried to get access to the loan documentation from the bank. 
- I am asking for the document accompanying the loan application and I cannot understand how the bank refuses to provide those documents that concern a loan in my name. As many as four bank representatives are signed on the document by which Komercijalna banka has informed me that I cannot access those documents because they are confidential. After that I have sent another notification so as to indicate that article 112 of the Banking Law, which they are referring to when they refuse to grant me access to the documents, stipulates that the documents should be provided to a legal entity making such a request, the interviewee stated. 
Artnik still has not received any reply to the second notification. Several months ago, he reported the case to the Financial Police, which opened an investigation about the case and the fraud perpetrated by his associates and the bank clerks.  Artnik is even thinking about commissioning an independent forensic company from Slovenia to determine, using the DNA method, that nobody from "Eureka" had any contact with the loan documentation. 
- I am an architect by profession, but in the last ten odd years I have been feeling as if I am in servitude, since I am still paying back the initial €250 thousand, which trapped me into debt rather than help me expand my business, and all of that is owing to the fact that someone used me, by means of fraud, to profit, while I am left with paying back instalments for a loan that I have neither requested, nor used, Artnik finished his story, expressing his hope that the law enforcement authorities will identify the guilty parties and that he will eventually get back the money he has been paying to the bank for a loan he has never used.


At the time when Artnik had hoped to expand his business, he maintained friendly relations with Risto Murov, the owner of “Mar Company”, and, naturally, with Trajkovska, who was the one to lure him into a financial adventure. Murov, who believed in the friendship between Trajkovska and Artnik, and he himself had good relations with Artnik, decided to sell his customs intermediation and freight forwarding company to Trajkovska, who, in fact, had initiated the purchase.    They agreed that Murov would remain employed in “Mar Company” five years, while his employees would be kept for two years. At that time Trajkovska allegedly did not have available the necessary €100 thousand to complete the purchase, and for the duration of the process of changing the ownership structure, Murov remained the official signatory of "Mar Company".
- Trajkovska used her authority over me to convince me to accept an apartment instead of the money, to be paid for by a loan through the "Sparkasse" bank, which was approved to me in just five minutes, because she had already made such arrangements with the bank’s employees, with a promise that she would repay the loan in her capacity of a loan guarantor and thus compensate her debt to me. Now I understand that Trajkovska has used me to take loans without me being aware of it. Thus, I had signed for borrowings and loans, and any money that would strangely appear at my account I had to transfer to other accounts, Murov stated disappointedly.   
When Trajkovska’s situation at "Fersped" got complicated, that is, when she could no longer pledge assets as security for new loans, she pulled the rug from under Murov's feet. He illustrated the scheme used by the persons implicated in the fraud by an example. 
- One day I am checking my account and I see that I have received five million denars from a company I do not even know. Sasha Tvrtkovikj from Komercijalna bank calls me on the phone with instructions to which companies I have to transfer the funds as borrowings. One such company was “Kubus”, to which I lent seven million denars.  A representative of the bank, who has no right to call me, promised that they would soon approve a loan to “Kubus” and I would get my money back, the defrauded businessman said.
Three months have passed and “Kubus” had shown no inclination to repay its debt to "Mar Company", so Murov went to see Zlatko Todorov, the owner of the debtor company, so as to clear up the borrowing issue. It was then that Murov found that Todorov had no clue about any borrowing or a loan to be obtained from Komercijalna banka, contrary to Tvrtkovikj's claims. Realizing that he had been defrauded, Murov went resentfully to see the bank clerk, who, in turn, sought help from Trajkovska, and finally they decided that "Mar Company" should take legal action against "Kubus". Thus, this group of fraudsters implicated the companies in complicated situation against their will and intent. Nevertheless, since they wanted their companies to survive, they were forced to start repaying the loans and borrowings, despite the fact that had been hoaxed into taking such loans and borrowings.
- Currently I am repaying a loan of €25 thousand, although the money have ended in Trajkovska’s companies and not at my account. That is the modus operandi of this crime syndicate - although we have not entered into borrowing agreements, and we have not asked for loans because we had no need for them, we are still stuck in debt. In essence, this means that somebody has defrauded us and perpetrated additional criminal offences misusing our data at the bank, and has even secured guarantees via "Fersped" without our knowledge, Murov ended, expecting that somebody would finally stand in the way of the fraudsters.


The list of defrauded companies is quite long. The Financial Police is frequently receiving new reports from citizens and company owners who have been sucked down into the whirlpool of crime. They themselves have dubbed it a system of borrowings used for someone else's purposes.
Todorov, however, did not wait for the problem to go away on its own. When Murov questioned him when he would repay the borrowing, he immediately suspected a fraud. At that point he realized that the employees of Komercijalna banka are involved in some shady dealings. It had not been clear to him how the bank clerk Tvrtkovikj convinced Murov that "Kubus" needed a borrowing and would then be granted a loan to repay such borrowing. Angered by such actions of the bank, Todorov reported the case to the police. 
Otherwise, in the case of "Kubus", the company applied for a loan for procurement of construction materials. The bank approved the loan application, but, instead of the requested 150 million denars, it approved a loan in the amount of 400 million! The difference, according to Todorov, without the knowledge of “Kubus”, was transferred to other companies associated with the bank.
- This implies that they have used my signatures and my documents to transfer the money at their own accounts. Then I have been left with the loan to repay. The Office for Prevention of Money Laundering has found that the companies, which are now under investigation and are suspected of having taken part in the frauds, used the money to satisfy their own crediting needs and to settle their claims from companies that have been declared bankrupt at a later date. Thus, the money they initially paid at my account were later on transferred to other companies in the form of borrowings, and we had no clue about it, Todorov said. 
In essence, all who have trusted the bank clerks are now victims of a fraud. The National Bank, which has the relevant mechanisms and is obliged to supervise the operation of the banks, as well as the Public Prosecutor's Office, which must not remain silent, are aware of these cases. The criminal charges filed by the police against 36 individuals and companies, members of a criminal enterprise, are currently being processed by the Prosecutor’s Office. According to the criminal charges, Sasha Tvrtkovikj, Kiraca Trajkovska, Kocho Mocan, Kosta Mladenovski, “Fersped”, "Makosped”, “Tehnometal Vardar”, Lottery of Macedonia … within a period of seven years organized loans to the damaged companies, and such loans have been granted under the influence of the members of the criminal enterprise through Komercijalna banka, Ohridska banka, Uni bank, and Invest (now Sparkasse) bank, with the intent of obtaining financial gains. For that purpose they have established loan and borrowing schemes, as well as fictitious debtor-creditor relationships.
The next step is to perform a forensic review so as to discover all relations among the banks and the implicated companies and individuals and to assess the damage incurred by the injured parties. The investigation should provide the answers to the key questions - How have the loans been approved and who has falsified the documents? However, the first thing to do would be to recuse the appointed expert witness Kire Kostov, since he used to be the second executive director at "Domatti" from Sveti Nikole, a company that is on the list of suspects. The State Commission for Prevention of Corruption, which has been notified about this, still has not made any statement. All of these cases have also been reported to the non-governmental organization “Transparency International”.


Mito Mitanovski from Kichevo reported yet another case involving a loan from Komercijalna banka to "Transparency". He had bought the company “Tane Celevski”, which was undergoing insolvency procedure, with its entire assets. It had proven to be a good opportunity for the local powermongers to deceive Mitanovski. 
- The former Mayor of Kicevo, Vladimir Tolevski, the Mayor of Vraneshtica, Vancho Srbakovski, a professor from Ohrid, Sofronie Miladinovski, and several other people have lured me into obtaining a loan so as to restart the company I have procured. I do not know how, but they have arranged for the loan from Komercijalna banka to be paid overnight. I have mortgaged all plants and property, but I have never managed the money from the loan and instead they have ended up at the account of the company "Metalika", which has been established at that time by the persons indicated above. The loan amounted to incredible €1.4 million! In other words, “Metalika” applied for the loan, while it was me who pledged assets to the bank as collateral for the loan. I was forced to do so by the local despots, assisted by the police, who had threatened and blackmailed me, and I had to sign all documents as instructed by them, Mitanovski spoke about his personal experience. 
We can already predict what happened next. “Metalika” failed to repay the loan, and instead it entered into annexes to the initial loan agreement and expanded the loan, initially for fixed, and then for revolving assets, without the knowledge of MItanovski, so that finally the loan debt amounted to €2 million. Logically, Komercijalna banka foreclosed on the mortgage and seized Mitanovski's entire property. Although he had mortgaged only the buildings, he still the reserves and the equipment, too, which, according to him are worth more than €3 million.
- There was an interim measure prohibiting the disposal of the property, affirmed by the Appellate Court, but trucks without registration plates, inspectors flashing some badges, and a host of security staff and enforcers persisted in carrying out the equipment. I had to bring action against “Metalika” and Komercijalna banka for the damages incurred because the mortgage did not concern the movable property. I had no insight in how the money was spent, and I had not received any notification in that regard. On my request, representatives of the bank arrived to perform a field control and allegedly found that the entire equipment was still on the premises, which was not true; furthermore, no VAT was paid for any item of equipment that had been taken away, Mitanovski complained. 
After Komercijalna banka had become the owner of Mitanovski's property, it started to rent the property to the brother of the former manager of "Metalika", Srbakovski. There is still no outcome of the legal action because the process has been delayed for years, which corroborates the suspicion of involvement of state institutions and even the judiciary in this bank loan scheme. 
This is only a minor element of the banks’ involvement in organized money laundering. Mitanovski has documents and evidence that show the course of the entire scheme through the judicial labyrinths and under the auspices of Komercijalna banka. Therefore, Mitanovski wonders whether the shareholders of Komercijalna banka are aware where all those millions of euros have ended up?
In all likelihood, the end of the investigation would show that these companies were defrauded so as to disguise the crediting of other companies. The banks had to be aware of that. The disguised crediting was used to patch other holes in the companies, which were then knowingly led into insolvency. The state has interests in some of those companies, which raises the suspicion that the state too has incurred damages amounting to hundreds of millions euros.


These cases, which are not isolated and bring to surface the truth about the disguised loan transactions, confirm the failure of all control mechanisms of the commercial banks, but also of those at the National Bank. The banks have a legal obligation to detect and prevent the misappropriation of loans by their employees, in particular in cases like the present one that involves associated persons, both in terms of management and financially, and by general rule it should be used as a compulsory risk indicator. In simple words, it is obvious that the bank would not have been able to approve loans in such amounts without the knowledge of its management bodies. The collusion among the banks, behind the backs of their clients, raises an even greater concern. Such cases could threaten the credible operation of the banks, in particular of Komercijalna banka. The financial sector is particularly sensitive, and such disturbances may have serious consequences for the investors. The mere fact that Tvrtkovikj has been indicted will not suffice and all of the illegally drawn funds will have to be returned to their rightful owners.
 Written by: Ljubisha ARSIKJ