The diva, her warlord and a football fraud trial

The wife of the late war criminal Arkan is accused of stealing €4.5m in a case dividing Serbia

Svetlana Raznatovic, one of Serbia's most popular folk singers and former wife of the Serbian warlord Arkan, is to face trial for allegedly stealing millions of euros from transfers of football players during her time as the head of the Belgrade club Obilic.

The indictment revealed by Serbian prosecutors yesterday accuses Ms Raznatovic, who is better known as Ceca, of embezzling as much as €4.5m from the sale of 10 players between August 2000 and May 2003. If found guilty she faces up to 12 years in prison.

Ceca inherited the club from her husband, Arkan, whose real name was Zeljko Raznatovic, and who was gunned down in January 2000. Many suspect that opponents were so scared of the club's owner they deliberately lost games against his team.

Ceca's sister Lidija and former Obilic officials Dragisa Binic and Jovan Dimitrijevic have also been charged. Ceca is also accused of illegally possessing firearms, including 11 revolvers and pistols found at her home in Belgrade during a police raid in 2003.

At the time of Arkan's death at the hands of an off-duty policeman Ceca was 27, and was left to bring up their two small children. The tear-jerking tale of how she ran to the hotel where her husband had been shot, only to have him die in her arms, became the favourite of tabloid press for months after Arkan's death.

Ceca was a child star, singing nationalistic love songs for rural masses from the age of 14. But it was her marriage to Arkan in 1995 that launched her to unprecedented fame, helped no end by his reputation for merciless aggression and his forceful personality, which many believe helped to open doors in the television and music industries.

Their wedding was broadcast live on several television channels; the event proved to be a trashy mixture of old Serbian tradition and the newly popular fashion of gangsters turned wealthy businessmen in sanctions-hit Serbia.

After their marriage, Ceca and Arkan became icons. While Ceca's looks were copied by younger Serbian girls, the propaganda machine of Slobodan Milosevic's government helped to turn her husband into an idol for young men who were keen for a war hero at the start of the Yugoslav conflict.

The aura remained until his death in 2000, nine months before Milosevic fell from power. It remains almost intact for many Serbs today, among those who still live in disbelief that Serbian "heroes" committed atrocities in Croatia or Bosnia.

"My husband was never a gangster or a war criminal, he was the love of my life and I lived like a princess with him," Ceca usually says when asked about her husband's past.

Her popularity survives today across the former Yugoslavia where her stardom is compared to that of Madonna, despite the fact that she never sings in either Croatian or Bosnian. Her now infrequent concerts in Belgrade typically attract 100,000 fans and all are dedicated to her late husband.

Arkan, however, was a well-known common thief who sometimes worked as an executioner for Yugoslav secret services in the 1980s. He served sentences for a series of thefts in Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium, and became famous for his spectacular escapes from foreign prisons.

When the former Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991, Arkan became the leader of the "Tigers", a paramilitary formation that took to the war to Croatia and Bosnia. Gathering other former criminals, as well as young people on the verge of society, Arkan became one of the most prominent so-called Serbian "patriots".

If sentenced to a prison term, Ceca will be familiar with the surroundings. She was arrested and spent four months in jail in 2003, after the cache of illegal guns quoted in the indictment was found at her home. At the time, she said the weapons were her husband's, stashed in a room she "never went into".

Her home was initially searched because Ceca was suspected of helping the gang who assassinated the first post-Milosevic, pro-European prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, in 2003. One her associates, Milorad Lukovic, was convicting of the killing in 2007, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

News of the indictment caused an avalanche of reactions in Serbia. Critics say that the eight-year-long investigation was stalled due to Ceca's popularity, but the prosecution's spokesman, Tomo Zoric, said that it was long due to documentation that came from France, Greece, Russia and Turkey. Sources say the state has also collected material from Belgium, Italy, Latvia and Switzerland, where football players were sold, and where private accounts with millions were held in Ceca's or in her sister's name.

Hundreds of blogs yesterday came out in favour of Ceca, while others offered approval for the prosecution's move. Some said such a "Serbian legend" should not be prosecuted; others said it was finally "justice knocking at a thief's door".

Snezana Malovic, Serbia's Justice Minister, told national television that the prosecution was just doing its job in this case, with the aim to show "that no one can be officially pardoned, not even the so-called 'national icons'".

"In order to succeed against organised crime and corruption, it is necessary to change the awareness of citizens and establish the system of values that did not exist in the [wartorn] 1990s," Ms Malovic said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker