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Ex-Secret Police Chief May Implicate Milosevic

Yugoslavia: Many feel arrest of former president is near--and might even come for property violations.

February 26, 2001|DAVID HOLLEY and ZORAN CIRJAKOVIC | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Expectations are quickly growing here that the arrest of a deposed secret police chief will lead to the seizure of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Rade Markovic, taken into custody Friday on suspicion of murder in the deaths of four aides to a former opposition leader, was head of the secret police in Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic. He could receive the death penalty if convicted--a threat that many here believe may encourage him to testify against the man who gave him orders.

Markovic "is not crazy enough to risk his life to protect Milosevic," 66-year-old pensioner Marija Ivanovic said, expressing a widely held view. "Sooner or later, he will spill it out that he received orders from Milosevic and his wife."

Mirjana Markovic, the wife of Milosevic and head of the Yugoslav Left, a party that ruled in alliance with his Socialist Party of Serbia, was viewed by many as second in power only to her husband until his ouster Oct. 5. She is not related to the former secret police chief, who was second in power only to the ruling couple.

Dusan Mihajlovic, the Serbian interior minister, said in an interview Sunday on B-92 Television that Milosevic is suspected of four categories of crimes. He listed them as war crimes, for which Milosevic has been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague; illegal acquisition of property in Belgrade; political assassinations; and looting state funds and depositing the money in secret accounts abroad.

"We have focused our activities to reach as quickly as possible the top of this criminal pyramid," Mihajlovic said. "We started with those who carried out or organized serious criminal activities, and we are moving toward those who ordered these acts, that is, the chiefs of this pyramid."

Cedomir Jovanovic, leader of the ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia bloc in the Serbian parliament, said in remarks reported Sunday by the Beta news agency that Rade Markovic "is part of a line at the end of which, I believe, we will find Slobodan Milosevic himself."

There are indications, however, that Milosevic might first be arrested--in what is referred to here as the "Al Capone scenario"--on charges of falsifying documents to obtain property near his private residence in Belgrade, the Yugoslav and Serbian capital.

Capone, the infamous Chicago gangster, was imprisoned in 1932 for income tax violations. While Milosevic's alleged property violation is the least of the crimes of which the former president is accused, it is the one for which there may at present be the most incontrovertible evidence, according to Belgrade media.

B-92 Radio reported Sunday that a "high-ranking" official of Milosevic's party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he expected that Milosevic "will be interrogated during the coming week."

The radio also quoted an unidentified high official from the new ruling party as stating that "as soon as the first evidence turns up, [Milosevic] will be arrested." The same station reported, without any attribution, that it understood that both Milosevic and his wife might be arrested this week.

Former opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, the apparent target of an assassination attempt when a sand-filled truck slammed into his motorcade in 1999 and killed four people, has said strong evidence exists that the vehicle belonged to the secret police. He complained Sunday that the long delay between Milosevic's ouster and the arrest of Rade Markovic had probably allowed the former secret police chief to destroy evidence of other killings. But he said it would be impossible to cover up all the evidence about these deaths.

"When we talk about the quadruple murders on Ibarska Highway, everything was proved before Oct. 5," Draskovic told B-92 Radio. "In this case, they couldn't destroy the evidence. But we should not forget Slavko Curuvija, nor the crime against Ivan Stambolic, nor the crimes against hundreds of other citizens of Serbia who were liquidated by death squads headed by [Rade] Markovic."

Curuvija, a prominent publisher and critic of Milosevic, was shot outside his Belgrade apartment block less than three weeks into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. A human rights group last year filed charges alleging that Rade Markovic had instigated the killing.

Ivan Stambolic, a former Serbian president, disappeared Aug. 25 while jogging.

In an interview broadcast on state-run Radio Belgrade, Draskovic declared Sunday that Rade Markovic had turned part of the secret police into "a terrorist organization at the service of one woman and her husband."

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, the strongest voice in the new democratic leadership to insist on slow, careful and fully legal steps in any moves against members of the former regime, cautioned again Sunday against "principles of revolutionary justice."

But Draskovic insisted that the slowness to act against figures such as Rade Markovic has been a major mistake.

"Those who were protecting them have to explain to the people why they were doing that," Draskovic said on Radio Belgrade. "Why did they give them several months of time to probably remove traces of many of their crimes?"

*

Times staff writer Holley reported from Warsaw and special correspondent Cirjakovic from Belgrade.

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