Mafia and war
by Tatjana Tagirov
Serbian reality shows that the problem [of property acquired through criminal activity] exists, and that it is not limited to organized crime but also involves war crimes. It is to be hoped that legislators will take this aspect into account, given how difficult it is to draw a line separating one from the other. The recent past teaches us that war crimes were committed by state-organized groups which, under the mask of patriotism, ‘liberated’ civilians from their lives and property. At a trial of suspects accused of committing crimes in the area of Zvornik at the end of 1992, a witness from Kozluk (from where over 1,800 Muslims were forcibly deported to Hungary) recently stated: ‘From Kozluk alone 150 trailer-loads were taken. Goods taken from thousands of homes were transported in trucks to Serbia. People were divested even of their gold rings. The responsibility for this lies with [Serbian] factories and firms.’
In the first wave of military attacks on the Drina valley, a vast amount of goods was taken to Serbia, ranging from a mass of sophisticated mechanical plant to thousands of tons of production materials. In one day alone Arkan’s looters, under the command of Marko Pejić (nicknamed Peja the Gypsy), transported from Zvornik forty-six Mercedes cars, a large number of trucks filled with technical goods from the Zvorničanka department store, as well as all the BMWs, Opels, Audis and vans they could find., wrote the Bosnian papers. According to them, on one day alone ‘a column of trucks thirty kilometres in length was spiriting away cut timber to Serbia’. Momčilo Mandić, a former ‘controversial’ businessman now awaiting trial in Sarajevo, admitted in an interview that 2,400 VW Golfs were taken from Vogošća alone.
Other cases show the same picture and the same individuals. Željko Ražnatović Arkan operated in the Zvornik area, but also in Slavonia [Croatia]. In addition to a huge quantity of Slavonian oak, tons and tons of oil were taken from the Slavonian oilfield of Đelatovci. The trial of five members of the ‘Scorpion’ formation for the murder of six people near Trnovo illustrates well this patriotism personified by pillage. One of the accused, Slobodan Medić Boca, a forty-year-old agricultural technician, is today the proud owner of a farm stocked with horses and sheep and enjoys a ‘comfortable income’. He has admitted that in 1993 he, as commander of the Scorpions, and his ‘500 employees’ earned DM 700-1,000 a month, at a time when the ordinary Serbian civilians in whose name they were fighting earned no more than a dozen DM per month. ‘I bought over 30 houses and was in a position to help others’, said Medić. [And there is] Miroljub Vujović, recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes committed in 1991 at Ovčara, who remains the proud owner of a chain of over 20 shops.
Translated from a longer article in Vreme (Belgrade) 2 February 2006