War in The Balkans: Leader's cronies face loss of pounds 20m assets

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The Independent Online
ONE OF Slobodan Milosevic's top ministers and his family - dubbed the Rockefellers of Serbia - are likely to have up to pounds 20m of assets frozen in Britain. The move follows a European Union decision to penalise key players in the regime seen as responsible for the atrocities against Kosovo Albanians.

Bogoljub Karic, a Minister without Portfolio in the Milosevic regime, owns a secluded luxury mansion in north London. Bogoljub is head of Serbia's biggest private business "The Brothers Karic", with his brothers Zoran, Sretan, Dragomir. The family owns other large properties and business interests in London.

EU foreign ministers are expected to ratify an instruction to freeze assets of more than 300 leading supporters of the Milosevic regime today. A visa ban is already in place. The Karic brothers and Bogoljub's wife, Milanka, as well as the Milosevic family appear on the list, which includes politicians, leading figures in the military and civilians who are aiding the Serbian regime. The Mayor of the Kosovan capital, Pristina, Dusan Simic, is also on the list.

Last week, Jamie Shea, the Nato spokesman, said Bogoljub Karic and his wife "tried to do a runner" to Cyprus but were caught by the visa ban and forced to return to Belgrade.

He said: "Was he trying to arrange some financial transaction for the benefit of his boss? The good thing is that as these people try to leave they are finding that there are not many safe areas where they are welcome."

The Karic family and the Milosevic family have big financial interests in Cyprus.

Mr Shea described Karic as the minister of privatisation. "That meant basically giving state sponsored enterprises directly to President Milosevic's cronies," he said. The Karics own the BK Television station in Belgrade, which has been at the forefront of Serbian propaganda against Nato.

The Karic family set up operations in Britain in 1991. Two companies owned by the family have been in liquidation after UN sanctions imposed in 1992 during the Bosnian War stopped them trading. They owe pounds 500,000 to the Customs and Inland Revenue in unpaid taxes.

The family also own large mansions and an office block in London that are worth several million pounds. The EU order will prevent them from selling and moving their assets out of the country.