The Serbian property development and real estate market has, for years, been a safe haven of choice for murky businessmen looking to legitimise their offshore wealth, corrupt politicians cashing in on their manipulation of institutions, and for criminal clans laundering money from illicit trade.

However, the influence of these entities on the overall stability of the market had only become significant after 2008. The debt crisis and subsequent contraction in the purchasing power of the local population had driven the construction industry to the edge of extinction and knocked down property prices, thereby opening the doors for various forms of shadow political and criminal influences.

In Serbia, the region’s largest nation, the process of state capture under the autocratic rule of Prime Minister-turned-President Aleksandar Vučić has transformed the property market into a highly useful tool of informal political influence. Unchecked political control over state institutions has allowed individuals from within the President’s inner circle to create and amend rules and regulations to fit the needs of investors, including those with questionable credibility and reputations.