25 April 2002, Volume 4, Number 13
NEW GOVERNMENTS KEEP THE OLD REGIMES' PEOPLE.
A recent program of RFE/RL Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service with Zagorka Golubovic, a sociologist from Belgrade and member of the Serbian government's commission in charge of investigating financial fraud, and Lino Veljak, a philosopher from Zagreb.
RFE/RL: Mr. Veljak has just mentioned revenge. Democratic governments in Croatia and Serbia say that they do not want to settle accounts with former Tudjman and Milosevic favorites in order to avoid charges that they are seeking revenge. Is this fear justified?
Golubovic: I absolutely agree with my colleague Veljak.... We are talking here about running away from the need to face up to the past and the crimes committed by Slobodan Milosevic's government, as well as to take energetic measures to hold responsible and prosecute all those involved.
RFE/RL: When a member of the commission in charge of investigating financial fraud, Cedomir Cupic, said that illegally acquired property should be taken away, one other official's comment was: "Are we going back to 1945?"
Veljak: ...We are indeed talking about a sophism here. As far as I know, nobody has ever seriously proposed using revolutionary methods.
Everybody agrees that law must be obeyed. That means that if somebody cannot present proof as to how he got his property -- such as tax returns and receipts for taxes paid -- then it becomes obvious that his property was illegally acquired and based on tax evasion. These things can be easily determined, since even during the [1991-1995] war, the tax system in Croatia worked undisturbed...
But the political will to investigate fraud is lacking. One example is looking into how the Tudjman family acquired the villa in which they live and which was obviously acquired in a way that cannot possibly be considered legal.
[Meanwhile,] Nevenka Kosutic, Tudjman's daughter, keeps collecting huge amounts of money in damages for the mental anguish caused to her by some media reports about her. At the same time, the criminal proceedings against her for corruption are moving along very slowly. The statute of limitations might run out, despite the weight of the evidence against her.
RFE/RL: The authorities in Croatia obviously do not dare touch the wealth of the Tudjman family. Virtually nothing has been done so far.
Veljak: Absolutely nothing.
RFE/RL: Milosevic is in The Hague, but it seems to me that nobody has raised the issue of the wealth of his family -- of what his son has acquired, or his daughter.
Golubovic: That is true. Nobody is willing to raise that issue, and somehow the matter has been shelved.
However, I would like to say something about the difference between Serbia and Croatia, since the situation in Serbia in October 2000 was more revolutionary than in Croatia [after Tudjman's death]. During Milosevic's rule, Serbia reached its nadir, experiencing an economic, political, and cultural catastrophe, which was not the case with Croatia.
Then the people revolted, and some thoughtless measures were proposed. Later on, things became clearer and a line was drawn between seeking revenge and pursuing justice against those who had done illegal and immoral things, such as amassing immense wealth through war profiteering.
What we had in Serbia was political and economic forces operating together, directors of big firms working together with the government. And some of the ministers were at the same time directors of those big firms.
There is also the Milosevic clan, including his son and daughter. It is well known that Milosevic has accounts in many banks worldwide, but these have not been properly investigated, let alone confiscated.
RFE/RL: As far as I know, no one has yet looked into Arkan's business empire. I think that none of his heirs has paid any tax on their gains.
Golubovic: As far as I know, nobody has dared to look into that empire. And he was the most obvious case of war profiteering since he was a commander of paramilitary units, which got him his wealth.
I think that the chance to do something was missed immediately after 5 October. Today, everything is being swept under the rug. Who knows what will happen once the crisis in DOS is over.
RFE/RL: As far as I know, nobody has looked into the wealth of the war profiteers in Croatia. I am talking about the people who acquired their wealth during the war.
Veljak: Absolutely not. That is a fact. We have a group of newly rich in Croatia, and they have become rich through illegal [business] activities or plundering the war zones, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
RFE/RL: The fact is that there were not many changes in the army and police, either in Croatia or in Serbia. Maybe a few top officials [were replaced,] but that is all. The new government relies on the same army and police that used to serve Milosevic and Tudjman. Mrs. Golubovic, what do you think?
Golubovic: The connection between the army, police, and war profiteers can easily be proved. For instance, it recently appeared in the press that the big Simpo company has been preparing a petition in defense of [Chief of Staff] General [Nebojsa] Pavkovic, whom President [Vojislav] Kostunica refuses to remove from office despite many calls from the majority of the DOS parties and tens of thousands of signatures of citizens demanding his removal.
It is well known that General Pavkovic was Milosevic's right hand. After all, he confirmed that when he recently said: "Every army sides with the government. I sided and will side with the government." That means he has publicly acknowledged that he was on Milosevic's side and that he was doing everything to implement his policies.
I cannot possibly understand why President Kostunica defends General Pavkovic so stubbornly, and otherwise prevents the removal of those army officials who -- metaphorically speaking --undoubtedly did stain their hands with blood during the recent wars, particularly in Kosovo.
RFE/RL: Not even the Serbian government dares to touch the Red Berets. That is a similar situation.
Golubovic: That is an issue of the state security service. For reasons that I cannot understand, [they remain untouchable]...
RFE/RL: Mr. Veljak, were there any changes in the army and police in Croatia?
Veljak: The fact is that there were some changes in the army, but they were imposed [by the civilian authorities]. A key moment in the process of eliminating the criminal elements was when President [Stipe] Mesic sent into retirement a group of generals who had decided to "defend the achievements of the war for independence" [and put themselves above the law]. However, the question remains as to what extent the retirements have actually changed the structure of the army and made it an appropriate one for a democratic society.
RFE/RL: And were there any changes in the secret services on which the Tudjman regime relied?
Veljak: Those changes came very slowly, and a good part of those services are still integrated into what I like to call a parastructure. A potentially more far-reaching reform has begun, but it remains to be seen what will become of it.