As neighbouring countries that were once part of Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia still share a lot of connections — and not all of them legit. Shady business networks have sprouted up almost unchecked, nourished by the two nations’ proximity and their EU memberships.

The workings of some of these white-collar criminal efforts are at the heart of a joint project by sister investigative journalism outfits on both sides of the border: Oštro in Slovenia and Oštro in Croatia.

White-collar crime schemes often go unnoticed until a company is in trouble or files for bankruptcy. By then, ill-gotten gains have usually been channelled to other jurisdictions, making investigation time-consuming for law enforcement. And for reporters.

Moving assets between Slovenia and Croatia is one way of obstructing investigators in this micro-region, the journalists found. 

Drawing on documents from The Pandora Papers, the biggest leak of offshore financial data in history, the Croatian and Slovenian teams investigated four stories involving tax evasion, fraud and hiding assets in offshore jurisdictions.

One story revealed how a group of Slovenian businessmen connected to a controversial advisor of current Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša moved assets of biogas plants with the use of offshore companies in order to elude the reach of creditors.

A second story showed how key people from intermediary companies defrauded Croatian farmers who were left unpaid for the silage they were contracted to produce for biogas plants.

A third exposed the offshore affairs of a Slovenian businessman who is being investigated for tax evasion through fictitious deals, involving Slovenian and Croatian companies.

And a fourth story unravelled the sale of a valuable silo on the Adriatic coast that was once owned by a Croatian brewery to a company from the British Virgin Islands owned by a Slovenian citizen — for a suspiciously low price.

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