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October 24, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 161
Army Corruption

The Oil Trail

by Jovan Dulovic

Just over two months ago, an angry Major-General Bora Ivanovic appeared in Subotica and ordered his subordinate Colonel Milorad Jovanovic to call a staff meeting because of an important statement.

The Army's Novi Sad Corps commander's anger didn't promise anything good. He pulled a document from his bag and ordered the Subotica garrison commander to read it out loud to his men. It was an order, actually a telegram, dismissing Jovanovic as garrison commander and appointing a new commander.

Jovanovic didn't seem to get the point as he read the order. He didn't even pause as he read out: ``the current garrison commander, Colonel Milorad Jovanovic, is dismissed on suspicion of misusing his position and embezzling Yugoslav Army property.''

Short and sweet, as is usual in most armies.

Fifteen days later, Colonel Milorad Jovanovic was arrested and an investigation was launched by a court martial.

People in Subotica are quietly gossiping about the dismissal while the military authorities are keeping silent.

Defence lawyers, in the best interests of their client, won't talk about the investigation. They're expecting something to happen that will exonerate their client.

Several witnesses told investigators that the Colonel was involved in illegal oil deals, i.e. that he signed contracts for fuel transports from Baranja (Serb-held territory in Croatia adjacent to Vojvodina) with non-existent companies, such as Sremag from Backa Topola. They spoke of army convoys whose drivers were ordered by Jovanovic to bring the fuel from Mirkovci and Negoslavci (villages in Baranja) to Bezdan (Vojvodina), where it was transferred to ships. Informed sources say military law allows officers to do things that no registered company does. There are several companies registered to transport fuel.

It was clear a year ago that something was wrong when the police arrested noncommissioned officer Angelovski (one of Jovanovic's subordinates) while he was transporting fuel from Baranja. It turned out that the fuel was being brought in for a non-existent company on Jovanovic's orders (the driver was released). Sources in the Subotica garrison said the deal was paid in fuel (40% of the oil) which was then distributed to civilian companies by army tanker trucks. So far, investigators haven't found out who Jovanovic's business partner is, i.e. who owns the fuel. The only sure thing is that the arrest has alarmed many local businessmen.

Jovanovic also had problems with his technical services chief who warned him about embezzling ammunition on several occasions. Several crates of ammunition were taken out of the garrison and later discovered in villages near Subotica. In private homes. The requisitions were signed by the garrison commander and not the technical services duty officer. Investigators are still figuring out how much ammunition is missing and where it went. Unconfirmed reports from the Subotica garrison said the ammunition ended up in the war zone. Whether those deliveries were motivated by patriotism or something else is hard to say. The ammunition crates were taken to local villages in Jovanovic's service car, sources in Subotica said. The Colonel's driver allegedly confirmed this.

Few in the garrison itself want to talk about their former commander, probably because of the arrest. The few who do want to talk described him as willful and arrogant. No one dared do anything against him because he had the support of the former commander of the Army's Novi Sad Corps, General Andrija Biorcevic (one of the main men responsible for operations in Vukovar during 1991), and current Corps commander Ivanovic, some of his officers said.

Jovanovic was promoted to Colonel during the war in Croatia. He came to Subotica after the army withdrew from Slovenia, where he was serving at the time. He waged war in Baranja and is assumed to have linked up with the locals then. He became very popular in Subotica and was welcomed into the company of Subotica businessmen who had close ties with the authorities. In Subotica, they say those men were most often ``suffering Serbs,'' refugees. Many of them now own large profitable companies.

One of the people Jovanovic cooperated closely with was Dusan Stipanovic. Stipanovic, the local SPS party secretary, was given Yugoslav Army weapons to arm his volunteers for battles outside FRY territory. The question is how big that volunteer group was when only two automatic rifles and three pairs of binoculars are missing. The rifles and binoculars were allegedly left behind somewhere in Herzegovina.

So Where Are The Knives And Forks?

The men in the Subotica garrison also want to know what happened to the dining service they confiscated during a Yugoslav Peoples' Army operation in a castle near Vukovar. The service is priceless and belonged to a French king once. It was stored in the garrison for a while and was in the local army club for a night before it disappeared. They believe it was taken to Belgrade, but no one knows who got it. Some say it was lost on the way from Subotica to Belgrade.

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