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An artificial Christmas tree in the centre of Belgrade has been getting more jeers than cheers this holiday season — given that its reported price tag of 83,000 euros would make it one of the most expensive in the world. The 18-metre tall (59-feet) tree, decorated with 200 red plastic ornaments and 40 candlewick red-gold ribbons, stands in the main pedestrian zone in Serbia’s capital and has sparked a furious public reaction and accusations of corruption.
“In the city budget for this and next year there are a lot of scandalous things, and the Christmas tree is only the tip of the iceberg,” Nikola Jovanovic, from the opposition People’s Party, told Beta news agency. Jovanovic said the tree was just one example of financial abuse by city authorities after the investigative website Pistaljka revealed the cost of almost 10 million dinars (83,000 euros $98,000).
Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali, a close ally of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, initially refused to talk to reporters about the tree, but later said he was going to cancel the contract — which Pistaljka reported had been signed three days after the tree was installed. “I was surprised with the amount. We have been working completely transparently and publicly for three and a half years. We did not hide anything,” Mali told reporters. The revelation about the tree’s cost has led to the public prosecutor’s office launching a probe into the case but that hasn’t quelled the outrage, with many mocking the price. (AFP)