Belgrade, the ‘White City” is regarded as the new emerging financial centre in Southern Europe and the Balkans. People in Belgrade also like to call their city the Manhattan of the Balkans. This is also because Belgrade is known for its extensive party scene and vibrant nightlife as is Manhatten. As on Wall Street in Manhattan, financial people like to celebrate their nights and weekends abundantly. That’s okay. Those who work hard, do a good job and earn good money may celebrate as well. That’s just fair. But there is a dark side of the White City which is not officially spoken about – the city is a hub of the global cybercrime scene.
The shocking truth about the Belgrade financial scene
The sad truth about the financial scene in Belgrade, however, is that the majority of successful financiers work in the scam scene. Belgrade is not only regarded as one of Europe’s top party scene places (but also as a center of the global cybercrime and scam scene.
Serbia’s capital may never be celebrated alongside Prague and Budapest as a beautiful eastern city, but Belgrade is defiantly No 1 when it comes to clubbing. And with the rise of two (very different) Serbian festivals – the rock and techno Exit festival and Guca, where hundreds of Gypsy brass bands entertain 300,000 revellers – Belgrade is now on the western European music fan’s radar.The Guardian – Dancing on the Danube
Many well-educated and talented young Serbians earn their money as hard working call center agents in illegal boiler rooms by cheating on retail investors all over the world. As agents in these boiler rooms, they call naive retail investors in Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, and other countries posing as financial advisors or even brokers. They use fake names and fake CVs. They mislead investors with lies and unrealistic yield promises to make them deposit money. However, this money is regularly stolen rather than invested.
Those boiler room agents receive a commission for every single deposit made by a customer. A large part of these commissions is then spent in the Belgrade party scene. Legally, those boiler room agents are active members of criminal organizations and may be held accountable respectively.
The Israeli invasion in Belgrade
According to information from lawyers and authorities involved, up to 7,000 Israelis currently work in Belgrade and manage boiler rooms. Experts estimate that the Boiler Rooms in Belgrade cause up to one billion Euros of damage to small investors worldwide every year. Accordingly, many work permits are issued, many companies founded, many “jobs” (scam jobs) are created. Correspondingly many jobs (scam jobs) are created which is good for Belgrade, isn’t it? This creates prosperity in Belgrade. As in Manhattan, the financial scene is the most important economic factor.
The sad truth is that over the last couple of years the Belgrade party scene and the bars lived outstandingly from the stolen funds of the boiler rooms and their agents. Hundreds of thousands of Euros have been spent every weekend in the party scene on the Danube. For alcohol, drugs and lots of fun activities.
About Serbian victims and damaged reputation
Many young, well educated Serbs are proud of their job in the boiler rooms. We talked to some of them and found an amazing naivety. These young Serbs have no idea that they have been recruited to steal money from retail investors with their activities and make the scammers rich.
Actually, many of these boiler room agents have no idea that as members of a criminal organisation they are putting their future at risk. They have no idea that EU authorities and the U.S. FBI are currently investigating many Serbian boiler room operators. In 8 out of 10 cases, the scammers are Israelis who have come to Belgrade to do their scams with cheap employees.
The Money Laundering Game
The truth is also that the Serbian state does not earn tax money from these “financial companies” (aka scams). The money stolen by the small investors is regularly laundered through Serbian and Montenegrin banks via offshore companies and finally arrives in Israel.
The lawyers, companies and banks involved in this Belgrade-centered money laundering schemes are earning well. The EU authorities are aware of this. Accordingly, many money laundering investigations are being conducted against Serbian and Montenegrin companies and persons. More about this in the next reports of our “Belgrade Cybercrime Story”.
To be continued