Serbia vows to work with Austria over HGAA ‘drug money’

Police in Austria and Serbia revealed plans to join forces in investigating alleged money-laundering activities by Serbian crooks and former Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA) officials.Austrian media claimed last week ex-HGAA decision-makers cooperated with an infamous Serbian drug lord for years.Reports had it that “Balkan cocaine king” Darko Saric laundered around 100 million Euros between 2007 and 2009 in HGAA which was nationalised in a dramatic last-minute move by the Austrian government last December.Now Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said after meeting with Austrian Federal Crime Office (BK) director Franz Lang in Salzburg that Serbian authorities will closely cooperate with Austria’s SoKo Hypo and CSI Hypo commissions to clarify the claims.The groups – consisting of business crime experts, police and financial market fraud investigators – were set up by the Austrian finance ministry earlier this year to find out who was in charge of HGAA’s near collapse.New HGAA chief Gottwald Kranebitter said recently the plan was to get the ailing bank back in the black by next year to sell it with a profit within the next few years.His attempts to get HGAA back on track suffered a dramatic blow last week when business figures showed that the institute suffered net losses of 449 million Euros in the first half of this year.The European Commission (EC) already warned some weeks ago that HGAA – which still receives state aid – might never ever be profitable again.Investigators are currently focusing on around 40 businessmen, investors and politicians across Europe suspected of being in charge of the bank’s negative development.Reports have it HGAA almost dug its own grave with careless lending policies, especially in former Yugoslavian countries.Former decision-makers and a string of high-ranking politicians in Austria and other countries may face fraud and embezzlement charges, it has been claimed.