Air Serbia CEO named in Alitalia investigation


Air Serbia’s CEO, Duncan Naysmith, has been named as one of 21 suspects in an investigation by the public prosecutor’s office in Civitavecchia, Italy into the bankruptcy of Alitalia in 2017, during its strategic partnership with Etihad Airways. Mr Naysmith served as Alitalia’s Chief Financial Officer at the time. The Italian prosecutor found that Etihad was involved in numerous financial offences at Alitalia, including the fraudulent disclosure of business information, which ultimately exacerbated the Italian flag carrier’s financial problems. Other suspects named in the investigation include members of Alitalia’s top management at the time, members of the Board of Directors, other high-ranking company officials and consultants. The former President and CEO of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, has also been named as a suspect. Italian media noted that Etihad essentially used Alitalia as an ATM machine. Alitalia has been operating in bankruptcy protection since 2017. The airline is estimated to be losing some two million euros per day and is maintaining operations only as a result of government-backed bridging loans. Last week it announced it was discontinuing the lease for three Airbus A330 aircraft from Etihad Airways at a cost of 500.000 US dollars per month per aircraft. Duncan Naysmith initially held the post of Chief Financial and Business Transformation Officer at Air Serbia upon his arrival to the company in 2017, after which he was promoted to the CEO position in December that year following the resignation of Dane Kondić.


  1. Anonymous10:41

    Criminals. They literally killed every airline they touched. I wonder how did Air Serbia survive? I guess getting rid of them was the best thing that happened to JU.

    1. Anonymous10:51

      I think the termination of consultation agreement saved JU, it freed them from AUH based incompetent management.

      Let's see what happens with Naysmith, in my opinion nothing since this is Serbia we are talking about.

    2. Anonymous11:42

      Does this guy have a citizenship of some EU country? Or he was granted Serbian citizenship by our government in order to lead the company?

    3. Anonymous11:48

      He got a Serbian passport just like Dane did

    4. ""Last week it announced it was discontinuing the lease for three Airbus A330 aircraft from Etihad Airways at a cost of 500.000 US dollars per month per aircraft.""

      Sounds like air serbia had same type of contract. BTW at moment lease rate for same age aircraft is less than half of this ammount! Someone made huge profit and someone is in huge loss. Maybe reason for non-profitability of BEG-JFK line is because Air Serbia is paying 3 mils per year more than this aircraft really should cost.

    5. Anonymous17:11

      Exactly that is why the Serbian government needs to look at it all. Etihad is full of unpleasant surprises!

    6. Anonymous20:39

      @10.51 ....

      the "incompetent mgt" you speak about are still in the same chairs, incl the Board appointees. The only thing that has changed is that some functions have returned back to BEG AND the Govt of Serbia is much more engaged and involved in decision making - providing a greater degree of checks and balances than were in place beforehand.

      I'd say the fact that former Chairman Sinisa Mali is no longer directly involved, is what has had a HUGE and perhaps much bigger impact on JU mgt being allowed to run with things.

      His involvement in everything and in micromanaging things, contributed to the poor functioning of the company

    7. Anonymous20:41

      Interesting, I see many have complained about him. Do you know more about what wrong he did in the airline? I assume he will be the same in the ministry now.

    8. Anonymous21:29

      The same wrong he did as Mayor of Belgrade ... need you ask more ?

  2. Anonymous10:46

    What nonsense from the Italians claiming Etihad used the airline as an ATM. Alitalia has been a basket case for decades, bloated with surplus staff, poorly managed and with no vision. It is clear they are looking for scapegoats so the airline can be funded again when in reality it's long overdue it's bankruptcy.

    1. Anonymous10:56

      Yes because Etihad didn't mess them up by launching nonsensical destinations, angering the employees and more importantly introduced new uniforms at a time when the airline was in such a bad shape. Also, in the internal report as written by some Italian media, seems like EY appointed management misused AZ's massive revenue for other things. By the way, did you know EY management didn't even share offices with AZ staff? They were in a separate building next to them.

    2. Anonymous11:26

      Everything Etihad touched turned to dust, they are even failing their own business. Meanwhile Hogan has saved himself, runs his consultancy in Switzerland while Dane enjoys the perks at working for Saudia. No one is going to be held responsible for anything.

    3. Anonymous11:44

      We are yet to see how money have been drained from JU and Serbian tax payers.

    4. Anonymous12:59

      Do you think the Serbian ministry of finance will look into deal concluded by Naysmith now that the Italians have flagged him as a high risk actor in AZ's catastrophe?

    5. Anonymous13:14

      Anon @11:44

      Raiffeisen bank drains profits from every country where it operates. Siemens, McDonalds, Wizz, every global company does the same. Don't you know that's how business operates?

    6. Anonymous19:17

      Anon @ 12.59 - The Serbian Ministry of Finance ie. The Minister himself - Sinisa Mali - is responsible for ALL that happened. He was the one who negotiated the deal and then he became the Chairman of the Board - so every decision required his signoff.

      If anyone is to blame for anything, then this guy was in and across every single decision.

      So nothing will ofcourse happen - as you know, he is a key player within the current Govt circles.

      Someone should however, ask how is it that NAysmith was appointed without the usual background checks - even more important for a foreigner as he is. While Etihad had the right to appoint, The Serbian govt maintained the right of veto - which they didn;t do, knowing full well his background and the fact that he came from AZ and the shit that he left behind there

    7. Anonymous20:33

      Don't forget it wasn't just Mali, the whole foundation was laid by an even bigger specialist of destruction: Dinkic.
      As for Naysmith, remember how long it took them to find a replacement for Dane? I think about a year and a half. I think they put him as the CEO because there was no one else who they could put. The government won't do anything because it's the election year and they don't need any fresh scandals.

    8. Anonymous20:34

      But let's get something straight, the CEO is not key in JU, he just signs off and approves what middle management does and proposes. That's where JU got some great people, mostly local young talent.

  3. Anonymous11:10

    Wow this is really bad PR for JU.

    1. Prepelica11:26

      LOL, how come?

    2. Anonymous12:41

      I do not see connection with JU at all.

    3. Anonymous12:55

      You really don't? How come? He's a person who was mentioned in a criminal investigation and is currently in charge of one of Serbia's biggest and most important national companies. Who says that he won't create similar unfavorable deals in JU especially now when he is in a much more influential position than he was in AZ.

    4. Anonymous13:09

      Alitalia was/is one big criminal act before Etihad, during Etihad, after Etihad...
      Allegations against this guy seems minor & questionable, you can find additional details online.
      Remember, after Etihad left, Alitalia have received close to 1.5 billion usd from goverment, and they are still in black.

    5. Anonymous13:21

      No one said AZ was perfect before EY came but after they left the airline was closer to the brink than ever before.

    6. Anonymous18:16

      Debatable. EY had a strange vision, to pick up a bunch of struggling airlines and somehow streamline them together and become this cost efficient mega airline, kind of like IAG. It may not have been the most well thought out plan but it had some promise. As usual, politics, a lazy unionized workforce and Italian bureaucracy made sure that plan would never work.

      You can't blame Etihad for Alitalia's current situation (even though the Italians would love to, as it solves all problems), the fact is the airline was, and remains, completely unsustainable.

    7. Anonymous18:47

      Sure you can blame them as EY pushed them over the edge, they were chaotic but stable before.

    8. "lazy unionized workforce"?!? Seriously, that's the problem? Management are super clever and smart, but workforce is lazy and don't want to implement their brilliant ideas, thus they are guilty when company crash, they are so lazy that they not even put their golden parachutes on when company is crashing. And plus they are unionized, that relict of old times, why do we need that anymore, also 8 hours shifts, decent salaries...

  4. Anonymous12:54

    He needs to step down at least until the investigation is over. Serbian government must react.

    1. Anonymous13:11

      Absolutely not. You wish.

    2. Anonymous13:19

      So you honestly think someone who is under investigation should run a government owned company? Especially a foreigner?! They need to find someone more appropriate for the job.

    3. Anonymous13:31

      Get your facts straight. Not a foreigner if he has Serbian passport.

    4. Anonymous13:38

      Yes very Serbian with a name like Duncan Naysmith and FYI he doesn't have Serbian nationality because he was never supposed to be the CEO. It took the government over a year to appoint him because they couldn't find someone more appropriate. He was appoined iz nuznosti.

    5. Anonymous15:45

      At least Duncan sounds more Serbian compared to Mohammed Dahlan, who received his Serbian passport in 2013, following the Air Serbia - Etihad deal.

    6. Anonymous15:50

      Neither of the two sound Serbian. I don't see why we need foreigners when we have so much talent that's moving to Germany, Austria...

  5. Anonymous13:24

    Unfortunately this is not news to anyone who is in the business. CEO under investigation because of abuses in AZ while another high ranking official at JU worked at MA and OK, two airlines where one went bankrupt and one came really close to it.

    Wonderful talent they have right there.

    1. Anonymous13:31

      Was 4K better?

    2. Anonymous13:39

      Given EY's track record they are much worse than 4K. 4K destroyed two regional airlines with little overall significance, Etihad on the other hand destroyed global brands with massive outreach and workforce.

    3. Anonymous18:23

      EY didn't really destroy anything that wasn't already on the path to destruction to begin with.

    4. Anonymous18:49

      Say that to Jet Airways or Air Berlin, neither airline was on the path to destruction when they were taken over. Maybe they were struggling but they were not in such a bad shape. EY forced them to pursue strange and odd strategies that hurt them in the end.

    5. Anonymous18:50

      Btw as for JU, they saved themselves from bankruptcy exactly because Etihad did not renew the management contract. It's after that that JU found the business model that suits them the most. Other carriers did not have such luck.

    6. Anonymous22:04

      Still remember those crazy days where you can fly BEG-FCO-AUH-BKK or MSQ-FCO-AUH-PVG...the idea of converting Rome and Abu Dhabi into married hubs.
      Oh wait, there was Darwin that later became Etihad Express with a Swiss logo and desertic EY livery flying on them Swedish relic Saabs. Then suddenly GVA was born and the code-share madness obsession. Yeah EY code-share on LUG-GVA route.
      And Jet Airways and Seychelles is just another long long chapter.

  6. Anonymous17:20

    Interesting development, only shows how foreigners behave in ex YU. They create a mess and leave without a trace

  7. Anonymous20:47

    I think all of this shows that it is now high time for the Govt to do a thorough review of everything related to JU. What went right; what went wrong and how to put things right going forward.

    There is a lot that is good and they need to build on that foundation, especially now that the business is on the right trajectory.

    It is also high time to put Serb talent in the steering wheel. We don't need to keep losing them to other countries and other businesses. There should be enough home grown talent to pass the batton onto. They are committed to things over the long term - unlike foreigners, who are there just for the pay cheque. Moreover, it is time the Govt start practicing what it preaches around providing opportunities for Serb talent.

    This would be the perfect start

    1. Anonymous20:55


      I absolutely agree with you. If they can't find talent in Serbia then all they have to do is provide good enough salaries for successful Serbs to return home and work for local companies under normal conditions.

    2. Anonymous21:18

      200% agree with this sentiment.

      Having invested God knows how much money, into arguably one of the major projects that this Govt has backed from the very beginning of its time in office, if after almost 7 years it cannot see a future for this business with high calibre local Serb talent running the show, then what on Earth was the point behind all of it and when - if ever - will it be the right time ?

      The Govt - especially the PM - who makes so much noise about the talent that we have and the talent that we need to invest in - needs to start walking the talk or stop the B.S. rhetoric ...

      Now is the time to break with the past and start a new future.

    3. Anonymous21:26

      Moving those functions back from AUH to BEG is proof just how capable our local people are and in how much better a local pair of eyes is compared to those of the foreigner.

      We have the talent - they just need to be given the opportunity. And if they can't get that in a Govt owned business, then is it any wonder why they choose to leave and seek opportunities outside of Serbia ?

      If a guy who failed at his job in Alitalia and could do no better than to get the same job in a much smaller company than the one he left (remember, he came here as the CFO), then what does it say about him ? And what does it say about us and how we regard foreign talent vs local talent ?

  8. Anonymous21:38

    Wait until the proceeds / loans of those expensive Bonds mature and require repayment - I think this and next year. Something like EUR100M at +7% interest !!!

    Sinisa Mali was the guy who signed off on these at the request of Etihad. This is far more scandalous than whatever the current CEO is implicated in ... but what is does highlight, is the urgent need for a thorough review of Etihad's involvement and practices

    1. Anonymous21:59

      Who will they have to pay that to?

    2. Anonymous22:16

      Etihad of course ! I think these loans were know as "BOX 1" and "BOX 2" ... I'm sure there are others out there you know about this more than me. But I recall reading comments about this at the time it was done.

      The sad thing is, that only the Govt can pay these (or refinance it) on behalf of the airline, because the business itself doesn't have the means to do so.

      All of this has turned out to be such a scam and a cost with no end in sight for the Govt

  9. Anonymous21:49

    Wow - can't believe what I am reading with all of these comments !

  10. Anonymous21:55

    I am sorry, but almost everything involved with the EY Group and its past gave nothing but headache and problem. They destroyed airlines, brought fiasco and one lord knows about the origin of the billions and billions of euros spent.
    EY has reached a point today selling its older birds, relying on a shiny livery for image.
    As for AZ, it is like a cave with no end - I have no words.
    JU for now is okay but lets see what happens during the duration of the 5 year contract

  11. Anonymous22:11

    Look at what has happened with every airline that Etihad invested in:

    Air Berlin - bankrupt and gone
    Alitalia - bankrupt and under insolvency protection
    Etihad Regional - bankrupt and gone
    Jet Airways - bankrupt and gone
    Virgin Australia - hugely loss making and struggling
    Air Serbia - hugely loss making and requires ongoing Govt investment to keep operating
    Air Seychelles - hugely loss making and requires ongoing Govt investment to keep operating

    So why and what benefit does the Serbian Govt have today in keeping Etihad involved, if they are the ones providing all of the money and (increasingly) the know-how to run the airline ?

    Get rid of the anchor around your legs and break free from this sordid past, before you also become a statistic

    1. Anonymous22:22

      Mate, you NAILED it! Excellent post and hope it sees more readers.
      Those problems never happened during the Jat Airways era. The airline was more efficient in many ways. It had a more strategic plan and was not that loss making compared to other ones. Really miss the good ol' Jat.

    2. Anonymous22:53

      Last Anon, your sarcasm is obvious but even though Air Serbia has become a much leaner airline than Jat was, there are still many, many things that need fixing and that the EY management simply can not do.

  12. Anonymous01:28

    Air Serbia haters are desperate for any piece of info that could be potentially interpreted in a negative way for Air Serbia. That was the case when Kondic left. Haters then said: this is the end of Air Serbia project. When Etihad returned some management functions back to Belgrade, they said EY is leaving JU, game over for Air Serbia. When Buy On Board was introduced, haters said that's the end for Air Serbia, etc. In all those cases Air Serbia only grew stronger and eventually grew bigger in terms of passengers, fleet and destinations.

    Same scenario is happening again. CEO will not be affected, JU will keep growing. Air Serbia like any major airline has contingency plans and succession planning in place if needed. Haters will lose again.