THE SUNDAY TIMES (London)
October 1 2000
Chinese banks hold $200m of regime's loot
Looking for a way out: Milosevic and his wife, Mira, who may
already have fled. Photographs: Sasa Stankovic
Nato guards escape routes as
Milosevic makes plans to flee
Tom Walker, Podgorica
NATO and western intelligence
networks are closely monitoring
all flights out of Belgrade in the
belief that President Slobodan
Milosevic may flee to China,
where he is thought to have up to
$200m (£140m) in secret bank
The surveillance operation began
even before Milosevic lost last
week's presidential election.
Diplomats watching the decline of
the Serbian regime said that in
the past six weeks Borka Vucic,
Milosevic's personal banker, had
made at least two trips to Beijing.
Their sources said her business
was connected with the
president's family and not the
American officials say Nato will thwart any attempt by Milosevic
to escape from Serbia in a private jet. His likely flight path would
take him over Hungary or Romania to Russia, which would
probably turn a blind eye if he moved on to Beijing.
However, Hungary is a Nato member and Romania hopes to join
the alliance. Both countries have interceptor aircraft on standby,
ready to force down any private flights from Serbia.
Military sources in Bosnia said Nato surveillance had been
briefed to look out for a private Falcon jet or the Yugoslav
government's official DC10.
The whereabouts of Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, who was
reported to have suffered a nervous breakdown, and children,
Marko and Maria, were unknown yesterday. Intelligence officials
said they were more concerned with the movements of the
president himself, who has been indicted by the international
criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague for
crimes against humanity in Kosovo.
The officials said Madeleine Albright, the American secretary of
state, was determined to bring Milosevic to justice before the
end of the Clinton administration in January.
The Milosevic regime is believed to have robbed the state of up
to $5 billion, most of it leached out of the country in the early
1990s after all personal bank accounts were frozen in Serbia,
ostensibly to help fund the war effort and to counter
Much of the money was taken to Cyprus, Lebanon and China,
and classic money-laundering techniques have made it almost
untraceable. Although Milosevic has never indulged himself on
the scale of the former Ceausescu dynasty in neighbouring
Romania, his security bills are huge and his Chinese savings
are believed to be substantial.
"We believe he could have anything up to $200m there," said
one intelligence source. "It will help him to hide away."
Vucic has helped Milosevic with his finances since they worked
together at Beogradska Bank 20 years ago. She is now the
minister in charge of co- operation with international financial
Intelligence sources say western capitals are watching the
movements of members of the Yugoslav regime who may be
thought by Milosevic to know too much. They include military
figures such as General Dragoljub Ojdanic, the army chief of
staff during the Kosovo campaign, and Frenki Simatovic, the
head of anti-terrorist forces.
Milosevic is also wary of fellow politicians such as Milan
Milutinovic, the Serbian president, and Vlajko Stojilkovic, the
"The future is very difficult for all of them," said one western
source. "They'd love to get out, but Slobo has to have them
somewhere where he can control them."
The source said some members of the regime had already
made secret trips to Budapest, the Hungarian capital, offering
information on the intricacies of the Belgrade machine in
exchange for visas to safe havens.
Stojilkovic is said to have been harshly treated last week. Police
sources say that he was told by Markovic to bring his most
ruthless units onto the streets of Belgrade, but that many had
As the extent of police and army sympathy for the opposition
became known, Milosevic was said to have hurled an ashtray at
Gorica Gajevic, his party secretary.
In Milosevic's home town of Pozarevac, local people said they
had heard the family was selling property. A cafe owned by
Marko Milosevic has closed down and his Bambiland theme
park has shut early for the winter.
For his part, however, the president has looked confident on
state television. Yesterday afternoon he attended a military
academy's passing out parade and declared that he would not
bow to pressure.
"We will counter pressures and threats with the truth, unity,
knowledge, work and creativity, just as we did successfully
under the Nato aggression and in the subsequent reconstruction
of our country," Milosevic said. "We are sure that our country,
which managed to defend itself in a war, can also successfully
resist these other psychological, media and political pressures."
Milosevic also claimed Yugoslavia was now pursuing a policy of
peace. Its period of wars "is now behind us", he said.
A source close to Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition leader,
said concern was growing that Milosevic's tactic of
divide-and-rule may work. Opposition groups behind Kostunica
have discussed the feasibility of forcing the president from
power through a general strike. Last night, they called for a
"total blockade of all state institutions and general civil
disobedience" to start from Monday.
If Kostunica seeks help from outside Serbia to speed
Milosevic's demise, he could hand the president a propaganda
coup. Unconfirmed reports over the weekend claimed foreign
diplomats had met Kostunica to discuss the possibility of
bringing mediators into Serbia to negotiate Milosevic's
Last night, President Vladimir Putin of Russia said he was
willing to send Igor Ivanov, his foreign minister, to Belgrade "to
be more active in the process".
However, Putin insisted: "The position of Russia is clear - the
Yugoslav people must decide their ultimate fate and future
without the interference of outside elements."
Greece also offered mediation and said it was willing to send
observers to monitor a new count of election votes. Milosevic's
federal election commission claimed Kostunica had beaten him
by 49% to 39%, falling short of the 50% required for a first-round
victory. Kostunica has refused to fight a second round next
Sunday, insisting he secured well over 50%.
However, the election commission rejected complaints of voting
irregularities, insisting yesterday that no recount was needed.
As the standoff intensified, the Yugoslav army seemed to be
shifting its allegiance away from Milosevic. According to a
high-ranking officer, at least one member of the army general
staff has resigned.
In a further blow, the commanding officers turned down
Milosevic's request for a meeting to discuss the outcome of the
election, saying in a fax from headquarters that the army "has
no functional link with the parties taking part".
A western diplomat in Podgorica, capital of Serbia's sister state
of Montenegro, described Milosevic as "like a wounded buffalo
who has taken a couple of rounds - he can still stagger around
and cause a lot of damage".
Additional reporting: Edin Hamzic, Ana Webber and Alex