“Three years after I investigated bogus international awards sold for thousands of euros, I got invited to pick up mine — for a small fee of just €4,750.”
Dino Jahic wrote that last week.
He’s the editor-in-chief at the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia and a contributor to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
In his original report about bogus awards for the OCCRP in 2014, Jahic said “anyone who pays enough money can win an award.”
Some outfits offering the awards target countries in Eastern Europe. In Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, he found about 50 public institutions that had received bogus awards.
“Some (recipients) paid for multiple awards at prices that ranged from €2,000 to more than €7,000 ($2,500-$9,300) per prize,” he said in his new story last week.
The award he recently won — capped by an award ceremony in Dubai next month — would have cost him or his employer €4,750 ($5,600) in “participation fees.”
The participation fees covered the right to reproduce the award materials, two nights in a hotel, two invitations to a cocktail party, a gala dinner with an award ceremony, and photos and video of the event (sent via DHL).
“In addition, I would still have to cover my own visa and plane ticket,” Jahic said.
He investigated the actual cost of the hotel rooms, dinners, and other swag covered by the €4,750 “participation fees.” It came to less than €900 ($1,062), Jahic said.
That left about €3,700 ($4,370) for the company giving the award — Otherways Management Association Club.
How did Otherways Management pick Jahic for its “Majestic Falcon Award for Quality & Excellence?”
“They evaluated the satisfaction of my customers, my leadership skills, my continuing education and trading as well as my business results,” Jahic said.
“At this point,” Jahic wrote, “I would like to remind the reader of the fact that I am a journalist who helped expose bogus awards, including the one Otherways was proposing to give me.”
One problem with phony awards is that they can puff up weak or dishonest recipients.
The Serbian state-owned pharmaceutical company Galenika was honored in 2009 but later became the subject of an investigation and prosecution.
“Ten people including two company directors of Galenika were indicted in January 2014 on charges of fraud and embezzlement of more than €75 million (around $95 million),” Jahic said.
The director of the Sarajevo Airport, Bakir Karahasanović, and the assistant director received an award for the airport in 2005.
In 2014, the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office “launched an investigation against them for several charges related to their work at the airport, including abuse of office,” Jahic said.
In all, Jahic said, 15 entities from Bosnia and Serbia received awards from Otherways. Those winners included “state-run Belgrade Pharmacy, Belgrade Power Plants, BH Telecom and Sarajevo Center Municipality — which got four Otherways awards.”
In addition to the The Majestic Falcon Award For Quality & Excellence that Jahic won, Otherways Management gives an award called The Green Era Award for Sustainability. There’s also the The Diamond Eye Award for Quality Commitment & Excellence, and The Global Award For Perfection, Quality & Ideal Performance, among others.
(The image above is a screen shot of The Majestic Falcon Award For Quality & Excellence from an Otherways’ YouTube video.)
For winners from the public sector, Jahic said, money for the awards comes “from budgets or ultimately from the pockets of taxpayers.”
Dino Jahic’s October 19, 2017 article “Awards for Sale” for the OCCRP is here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.
The scheme described here is a more sophisticated version of a common scam for law firms that involves 'You have been selected as the XX law firm in your country. To claim your award send $995 to YYY.' There can be as many different awards as the population of the country can bear without the scam becoming too obvious and all priced just below the $1,000 pain point.
A lot of law firms end up with the award certificate appearing in the email signature block. Do the law firms go ahead with it because they are suckers or do they know it's a scam but go ahead because they think their poor hapless clients will be fooled?
What great work on an enduring fraud scheme. I have seen (and experienced) these notices going all the way back to public school days with that letter telling you have been selected for inclusion in an exclusive yearbook based on your academic record. This is in line with the infamous 419 scams and similar attacks. (wonder if I am eligible for an award with the posting of a comment?)
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