Spoils of war that brutal regime has stashed abroad

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The Independent Online

Most Serbs are certain of one thing - no matter how Slobodan Milosevic's rule ends or where he goes, he will be a rich man.

Most Serbs are certain of one thing - no matter how Slobodan Milosevic's rule ends or where he goes, he will be a rich man.

There are no estimates of how much money Mr Milosevic, his family and his associates have piled up over the years. But the ways and means are clearly visible.

In 1991, Serbs were robbed of a total $4.5bn (£2bn) dollars from their private savings accounts. The state "froze" their hard currency savings. No convincing explanation was given for where the money went or in whose pockets it ended up.

Many believe it was spent on financing Serbia's war efforts in Croatia and Bosnia. According to the Belgrade rumour mill, at least some of the funds were taken to "friendly" countries, to the private accounts of Mr Milosevic's coterie.

Cyprus was originally the base for such operations. In more recent years, the money is said to have found its way to Russia and China. Mr Milosevic's brother Bora is the ambassador to Moscow, and Mira Markovic, Mr Milosevic's wife, is obsessed with China and frequently travels there.

The master of the financial game was Borka Vucic, a banker in her seventies. There has been speculation in Belgrade that she has left the country since the elections.Money was allegedly taken out of the country in suitcases, using trusted couriers, to be placed in accounts under false names. Different aliases existed, together with "ghost firms" established by the regime, according to the speculation.

Several days ago, according to Mladjan Dinkic, the head of G17 group of independent economists, the country's last gold reserves were taken abroad.

Between 1992 and 1995, when economic sanctions were strict, enormous profits were made through the smuggling of petrol, cigarettes and other goods. After the sanctions were eased, the regime's direct control of trade continued. The established monopolies were turned into businesses, many of which are controlled by JUL, Mira Markovic's party.

Marko Milosevic, a son of the Yugoslav strongman, has created a business empire in his parents' home town, Pozarevac. There are hardly any other businesses besides those owned by Marko: bakeries, an internet service provider firm, a huge disco called "Madona" and an amusement park. But the disco and the park are now closed, and the whereabouts of Marko unknown.

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