China shuns ex-president's son in his desperate bid for sanctuary

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Marko Milosevic, the son of Yugoslavia's former president, was booted out of China yesterday and was reported tobe flying back back to Moscow in a desperate search forsanctuary.

Marko Milosevic, the son of Yugoslavia's former president, was booted out of China yesterday and was reported tobe flying back back to Moscow in a desperate search forsanctuary.

The younger Milosevic, believed to be the richest gangster in Serbia, fled to Russia at the weekend, after his father resigned as President. He carries a diplomatic passport and his uncle, Borislav Milosevic, is still nominally the Yugoslav ambassador in Moscow.

In Russia, the Foreign Ministry was making no comment on whether Marko would be allowed to stay in the country last night. With the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry still not completely under the control of the Yugoslav President-elect, Vojislav Kostunica, there was little prospect of his diplomatic passport being revoked.

Meanwhile, in the town that Marko used to call home, there was little sympathy for his predicament. "If he'd stayed he'd be dead. He would have been lynched," said Jankovic Mladjan, a young resident of Pozarevac. "He showed his true side by running away. If he had nothing to be afraid of, why didn't he stay?"

A hi-fi shop Marko owns on Pozarevac's main street lies in ruins, its windows smashed, the televisions and stereos gone.

A high school drop-out, Marko was a rich man at 18. He built a massive business empire on his father's name. Some parts of it - the electrical stores, the internet service provider and the discos - were legitimate. But he is said to have also controlled cigarette and petrol smuggling.And he was believed to have been awarded lucrative government contracts.

Everyone expected Slobodan Milosevic to flee Serbia after the revolution. But it was Marko and his family who rushed to the airport. It is thought his money fled with him. Misa Sovilj, a Belgrade resident, says he saw a convoy of Cypriot-registered cars hurriedly loading documents and departing from one of Marko's businesses in the capital. Cyprus has frozen the Milosevic family's bank accounts.

In Pozarevac, most are glad to see the back of him. Slobodan and his wife, Mira Markovic, grew up here, but in recent years it was Marko's private kingdom. It is a poor town, where most of the people scratch out a living at the local flea market. But, until last week, it was full of expensive, black four-wheel-drives, with tinted windows, that locals used to avoid.

In a scruffy backstreet lies a large, immaculate gate, incongruous beside the peeling paint. Beside it is a guardhouse with a policeman on duty 24 hours a day. For the last 11 years, this was Marko's home.

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