In recent years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been vigorously exerting influence in the Balkans, especially Serbia, through massive investments. Apart from its convenient stationing as a gateway to central Europe, UAE’s interest also lies in the Serbian military equipment export.
Earlier, UAE investment in Serbia was largely seen as a framework to gain financial rewards, but classified sales contracts revealed a much-bigger scandal related to arms export. The UAE and its neighbor Saudi Arabia have been accused of exploiting a poorly-regulated Serbian arms industry to circulate weapons across the conflicted Middle Eastern countries.
Member of the Serbian Parliament, Marinika Tepic urged Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to explain his relations with two Palestinian politicians, Mohammed Dahlan and Adham Abo Madalal.
Reportedly, Mohammed Dahlan, former head of the Palestinian Secret Services, has been the key interlocutor, underlining negotiations between the UAE with US and Israeli intelligence officials, along with facilitating tainted Emirati investments in Serbia.
Serbian President linked to corrupt weapon deal
Marinika Tepic pointed out President Vucic’s involvement in private and party affairs pertaining to the exports of Serbian weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which were eventually circulated to terrorist groups in Yemen and Syria.
This, certainly, isn’t the first time weapons from Saudi and UAE have ended up in conflicted zones controlled by terror groups. Investigations found that Serbian weapons sold to Saudi Arabia reached the hands of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese army warring at the Saudi-Yemen border. Serious concerns regarding the end-user protections of weapons exported to the Kingdom were raised.
Serbia’s government was accused of spearheading another scandal involving weapon deal or exports to Saudi Arabia, several million euros of state money, and Branko Stefanovic, the father of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic.
Stefanovic is one of the closest aides of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
Confidential documents show that state arms manufacturer, Krusik sold GIM—arms export company—weapons worth millions at strikingly low prices. The weapon shipment was later resold to foreign buyers, particularly, the Jihadi fighters in Syria and Yemen.
In a signed contract, Saudi government declares that the weapons which Rinad Al Jazira purchased from GIM are for the use of the Saudi Ministry of Defence and will not be re-exported without the consent of the Serbian Government. However, the same 81 mm HE mortar shells appear in Islamic State photos in Yemen.
Etihad Airways smuggled weapons out of Serbia
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways bought 49 percent share in Serbia’s national airline, JAT Airways and a new company, Air Serbia was set-up to establish an eastern European transportation hub.
However, suspicious loading of goods—doubted to be weapons—was carried out at Cargo warehouse of Nikola Tesla Airport. The goods featured Etihad tag in the header along with the VIP tag on top. The airlines, allegedly, transferred Serbian weapons through unlawful channels.
After opposition’s allegations, the Serbian parliament may order to open an investigation into the case, probing President Vucic’s involvement in weapon transfers to UAE and Saudi Arabia through backchannels.