Law knocks at the gate of Milosevic's bolt-hole

The wheels of justice begin to turn in Belgrade, closing in on the former dictator's family and atrocities by his secret services
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Slobodan Milosevic, ousted a month ago as Yugoslav president, still lives behind closed doors in one of his residences in the exclusive Dedinje neighbourhood of Belgrade. But not for long. In a small way, the wheels of justice in Belgrade are beginning to turn.

Slobodan Milosevic, ousted a month ago as Yugoslav president, still lives behind closed doors in one of his residences in the exclusive Dedinje neighbourhood of Belgrade. But not for long. In a small way, the wheels of justice in Belgrade are beginning to turn.

Despite a flurry of rumours at the time of the popular uprising that swept his regime from power on 5 October, there is no evidence that Mr Milosevic has left the premises on Uzicka Street since that day.

Holed up with him are his wife, Mira Markovic, and their 36-year-old daughter, Marija, with his loyal bodyguard, the police general Senta Milenkovic, and a special élite guard unit of the Yugoslav army.

"Milosevic knows that only while he is in there will the guard protect him," says Zoran Djindjic, a leader of the victorious Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition.

When Mr Milosevic resigned, he talked of returning as leader of the the Socialist Party. But the chances of that look slim. Several requests for criminal investigation against him and his family have been submitted to the public prosecutor. Mr Djindjic says: "We only have to wait until the judiciary system starts functioning."

One inquiry deals with Mr Milosevic's attempt to tamper with the election results, to cover the victory by Vojislav Kostunica. If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison. Another inquiry may begin after a two-part account of backstage events on the day of the revolution appeared in the Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf.

Quoting military sources, the paper said Mr Milosevic presented a list of 50 people to his military top brass on 5 October, allegedly demanding the execution of six key DOS leaders. The author of the story has been questioned by an investigating judge, who is demanding that Mr Milosevic submits to the same procedure.

And this week city planners visited a major construction site in Dedinje, where the Milosevic family lived until July 1997. The site belongs to Mr Milosevic and it does appear that a huge house is being built there illegally.

But many Serbs think solid evidence will surface on much more serious crimes committed by Mr Milosevic and his family. They say they want him to be tried for thoroughly ruining their lives and their country for the past decade. The responsibility for wars in former Yugoslavia and war crimes can be established later, they say.

That view is shared by President Kostunica, who insists Mr Milosevic should be tried in Belgrade for crimes against his own nation before facing the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Only Mr Milosevic's 28-year-old son Marko can rest easy, for a time. The unscrupulous "businessman" who became rich through smuggling fled to Moscow on 7 October with his wife and baby son.

The forged Yugoslav passport he used, with the name "Marko Jovanovic", means two years in jail. Marko tried to enter China later, but was forced to return to Moscow because of visa irregularities.

Now he lives in the Yugoslav embassy in Moscow where his uncle, Milosevic's brother Borislav, still holds the title of Belgrade's ambassador.

Marko's kitsch Madonna discotheque, and several firms he ran in his parents' hometown of Pozarevac, were ransacked by an angry mob in October. Local authorities are still trying to establish if Marko had any ownership documents for all the property in Pozarevac and also where he got the funds to build his empire.

The chance of finding answers is small: the smuggling of cigarettes, gasoline and narcotics, widely accepted as the basis for Marko's fortune, leaves few traces.

His sister, Marija, has suffered a nervous breakdown. She is trying to sell her TV station, Kosava. It was founded years ago with funds siphoned from several Serb firms connected to her parents. The companies include a bank, Beogradska Banka, run by Borka Vucic, and Jugopetrol, a fuel-supply business.

Two days before the revolution, Marija waved a gun around in the Kosava studio in an effort to prevent the staff from taking the station off the air. Her threats were in vain.

Now it is unclear who lives at Marija's luxurious three-floor house in Dedinje that she shared with her chubby, bald lover, Dragan Hadzi Antic, who headed the largest Serbian newspaper company, the pro-regime Politika.

On the day of the revolution, he fled the Politika headquarters through a back door, and is now hiding in a monastery in south-western Serbia.

Mira Markovic could be in trouble too. She is rumoured to have ordered the assassination of at least one of her political adversaries, the journalist Slavko Curuvija, gunned down in Belgrade last year. After the leak of surveillance reports, it is clear the secret police were involved in his murder.

Mrs Markovic is also believed to be involved in the murky business transactions of JUL, the neo-Marxist party that she leads. The party has been heavily involved in extortion from the few remaining successful businesses in Serbia.

When she created the party in 1994, Mrs Markovic allegedly asked her associates what was the most successful organisation in the world. The Mafia, they said. "That's how we'll work," she replied. The results were soon visible all over Serbia.