The Dark Side of Croatia’s Tourism Boom

Novi Sad Institute for Communal Construction Resort

Muammar Gaddafi’s wife really wanted to buy this faded resort in fall of 2011, during the last months of the rebel offensive in Libya. Safia Gaddafi, a Bosnian Croat, did not get her wish, but the resort may very well have fallen into some other very crooked hands.

In 1968, the Institute for Communal Construction of Novi Sad took possession of a parcel of seaside property in Igrane, a pretty little village near Makarska. The Institute built a resort where they could send their exhausted Serbian construction workers to relax by the Adriatic for a nice, subsidized vacation.

Then came the 1990s war. The resort became a shelter for refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. In 1993 and 1994, veterans of the conflict in Vukovar were also housed there. After the war ended, officials in Igrane began trying to piece together who exactly owned the property. They called it a “cabbage in the land registry”, because leaves of cabbage peel off and reveal new layers, or in this case, new individuals claiming to be owners.

Complicating the question of ownership was the fact that the resort overlapped with property that was recorded as belonging to a local family. Later, a company from Split called Valnessa said that they had purchased part of the land at an unknown date.

But the most disturbing layer of all is that Serbian criminal and war profiteer Mirko Dubroja, along with his Macedonian partner Sasa Kostovski, likely became the resort’s owners, with lots of help from the government in Novi Sad. Dubroja made a lot of money during the war by smuggling trucks filled with all kinds of unknown contraband between Croatia and Serbia. He knew which judges were crooked and could be bought.

Though the resort legally belonged to Serbia, and ownership should have been transferred to the Serbian government after the war, it’s alleged that authorities in Novi Sad held a private, closed auction for the resort in 2004, without notifying the Croatian State Property Management. Apparently, the Serbian authorities overseeing the auction allowed Dubroja to buy the resort in Igrani for the criminally low figure of 500,000 euros. More recently, new officials in Novi Sad have been engaged in a legal battle against Dubroja’s lawyers to void his ownership.

In the meantime, Dubroja continues his criminal activities. He was recently accused of damming a river to steal sand for his building materials business. Others have accused him of using a bulldozer to dig up a graveyard.

And rumors recently spread through Igrane that Dubroja had paid for the resort to be professionally cleaned, though it had been deserted and deteriorating for twenty years. While it was cleared of decades worth of debris, the building itself is still falling apart. And the identity of the resort’s legal owner remains unclear.


Next Page: Hotel Jadran

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Lily Lynch

Lily is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist Magazine. She lives in Belgrade, Serbia.