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Milosevic’s Fugitive Widow Denies Smuggling Charges

Mira Markovic at a press conference in 2000 (epa) June 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Speaking one day after an international warrant was issued for her arrest, Mira Markovic, the widow of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, has denied accusations that she once led a lucrative smuggling ring, RFE/RL’s South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported.

Markovic left Serbia in 2003 after being charged with abuse of power. Her son, Marko Milosevic, fled in October 2000 after his father fell from power. Both are rumored to be living in Russia.

However, speaking today by cell phone with RFE/RL, Markovic declined to say where she and her son now reside. She also denied that they led a cigarette-smuggling ring from 1996 to 2001 -- an operation believed to have earned both mother and son millions of dollars in profits.

“What smuggling? What [is this accusation of] cigarette smuggling all about? And whisky? What else was smuggled?” Markovic said. “Don’t you know I'm a university professor?”

Asked if she wished to return home, Markovic said: “Where to? The place where they want to put me on trial for smuggling? It’s a shame. I would like to come. I wish very much to come.”

Wanted in Serbia

International arrest warrants were issued for Markovic and her son on June 12. Serbia's organized crime prosecutor, Slobodan Radovanovic, said authorities had begun investigating the two, and that authorities’ next step would include freezing their assets in Serbia and other countries.

"They will be treated as the organizers of a criminal group dealing in the illegal trade of tobacco," Radovanovic told a news conference in Belgrade.

He did not speculate as to where the two might be residing, but said the warrant calls for their extradition to Serbia as soon as they are located.

Slobodan Milosevic died in March 2006 in detention in The Hague, as the United Nations war crimes tribunal was nearing a verdict on his role in the Croatian, Bosnian, and Kosovo wars of the 1990s.

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