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 evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Head of Service and Support (Financial Services, ITIL, ORC, TT)

£75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of Service and Support (Financial Ser...

Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, JAXB, ...

Service Delivery Manager - ITIL / ServiceNow / Derivatives

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading Financial Services orga...

Senior Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home