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October 20, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 263
Dragoslav Bokan's Arrest

Directors Cut

by Filip Svarm & Dejan Anastasijevic

"At my age, Karadjordje was a robber, not a Serb hero," film director, former commander of the White Eagles paramilitary groups and restaurant owner Dragoslav Bokan (36) said in October 1995. A year later Bokan, Aleksandar Momic (24), Aleksandar Sarac (29), Aleksandar Cvijetic (40) and Ljubisa Radosavljevic (39) are in a Novi Sad jail. They were charged with taking part in a robbery in the village of Bukovac on November 27, 1992 when they stole 240,000 DEM from Tomislav Djordjevic, owner of the Yuco company.

Momic and Sarac were charged with the robbery itself and the others were charged with assisting and inciting the robbery. The robbery was actually a case of debt collecting by force. In mid-November 1992, Bokan told Momic and Sarac to kill Djordjevic if they had to and added: "Tell him there’s a man with a grenade launcher outside the house and that he’ll fire if they call the police."

Momic and Sarac arrived in Novi Sad on November 27 and scouted the area around Djordjevic’s house in Bukovac. They went back to the house that evening and Djordjevic opened the door when they rang the bell. They pushed him inside at gun point and shoved him into a chair. Momic and Sarac produced a paper proving the debt and demanded money. Djordjevic admitted he owed the money but said he was broke and the two robbers produced a list of his assets. Djordjevic he didn’t have the money and he was beaten. At one point, Momic produced a syringe to inject something into Djordjevic’s veins but his wife and daughter appeared at that moment. The wife finally brought out a leather bag with 240,000 DEM and a gun in it.

They met Bokan in Belgrade and split the loot with Bokan taking 120,000 and the rest getting 30,000 each.

Borivoj Pajovic, Bokan’s lawyer voiced doubts about that version of events and added that this wasn’t a robbery but a debt collection for a foreign client who Djordjevic tricked. "Everyone who knows Bokan knows he’s a very intelligent man, perhaps aggressively intelligent who wants to influence people, but certainly not a robber." Besides, Pajovic said, it’s very unusual for the police to keep quiet about this for four years and end the silence now amid the election campaign.

VREME sources said there really was a client in Switzerland: the Zuber-Hegner corporation in Zurich, a prominent company that sells technical goods and, some say, weapons. Djordjevic ordered a large quantity of Samsung TVs and VCRs from the Swiss company in October 1991 when the war in Slavonia was going strong. The total value of the deal was five million dollars guaranteed by a Novi Sad bank. The merchandise left a warehouse in Zagreb on October 10, 1991 and arrived in Yugoslavia via Hungary the same day and went through customs. After that there is no record of the train which ended up empty in Sarajevo. The Swiss lost their goods and the money but they managed to get back two million USD (money Yuco had in the Novi Sad bank) a year later through a court in London. Interestingly that wasn’t the only shipment that Djordjevic ordered that was lost without a trace. Something similar happened with a shipment of Russian trucks which were last seen in the Republic of Serb Krajina.

Rolf Nol, a Swiss citizen and director of Zubner-Hegner’s Zagreb department, arrived in Belgrade early in 1992. It’s not clear whether he was there as a representative of his company because he was fired when the shipment disappeared and there are suspicions of his personal dealings with Djordjevic. When he started asking around to see how he could collect the debt, Nol met Aleksandar Cvijetic, owner of the Gavija company, Bokan’s political ally and, along with Ljubisa Radosavljevic owner of the DFR company, sponsor of Bokan’s Serb Homeland Alliance party. Bokan seems to have had some doubts about taking the job at first (he was arrested several times in 1992 for disturbing the peace and possession of unregistered firearms) but he relented finally. Now it seems Nol never took the money. Part of the money (30,000 DEM) was found in Ljubisa Radosavljevic’s account in a private bank. Bokan’s share was spent on the higher goals advocated by his party.

The defense is going to have a hard job because the defendants kept the money for themselves. The Serbian criminal code proscribes a penalty of one to 15 years in jail for robbery and if the prosecutor decides to charge them with serious robbery the lowest sentence is five years.

The case is clear cut from a legal point of view but we still don’t know why the police kept quiet for four years given the police infiltration into the White Eagles. Some of Bokan’s close associates swear he would never have undertaken this operation without official approval.

Despite everything, it’s hard to see Bokan as an innocent political victim; his behavior over the past seven years practically commanded that outcome.

Bokan - A Career

Dragoslav Bokan was presented as the latest of a number of Serb commanders by the regime press in late 1991. Up to that time he was "just like everyone else," he said. He graduated from the Belgrade university film directing school, started post-graduate studies and had a job as an editor in BIGZ, a big publishing company.

Bokan went to the US in 1990 and when he came back he understood the true meaning of orthodoxy in works by various authors. He found "esthetic strictness, brought to the point of Puritanism" in Mirko Jovic’s Serbian National Renewal party -which made him its secretary general and commander of its youth wing the White Eagles.

He personally threatened peace activists during their protests, drew up lists of traitors and held speeches in Belgrade. Bokan and his White Eagles "liberated" an apartment in central Belgrade, owned by the city authorities for use by the diplomatic corps. They hung a Serb flag from the balcony and played "patriotic" songs loudly. The police threw them out.

Bokan kept repeating his extremist nationalist and right-wing ideas to everyone who wanted to listen to him (the foreign and domestic press, parties and tribunals). He got beat up by a former VREME editor, Emir Kusturica and others.

Argument weekly asked him if he had killed anyone: "Did Vojvoda Misic (Serbian royal army general in W.W.I) kill anyone? No one ever asked him if he killed anyone. Instead they asked him if he won, if he had casualties among his men, how old the men who died were. I never killed prisoners and I never killed anyone who was closer than two centimeters to me."

Bokan made that and similar statements when his name appeared alongside, Seselj, Arkan, Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic on the first list of war crimes suspects drawn up by Helsinki Watch.

Bokan met Sonja Karadzic and Goran Maric, a former rock group manager, in Pale. They tried to set up a propaganda center to deal with "intelligence work and spreading information about the Serbs" in agreement with RS information minister Velibor Ostojic. "I was given the authority to organize cells but I gave up after several attacks on me."

Bokan turned to journalism and politics in 1992. He took over as editor in chief of Nasa Ideja magazine. Only two issues were published. He also formed his own party; the Serb Homeland Alliance (SOS). People who know him said serious "patriotic" businessmen rallied him and added that the security around him got serious with at least every third man working for the police.

The "peace has no alternative" policy upset Bokan, the SOS and the people around him. He occasionally gave interviews to nationalist publications speaking about the Right, elites and Serbdom. He also voiced fears of the Hague war crimes tribunal while the police were arresting him, disturbing the peace on a regular basis.

Recently he went back to his old profession; he directed a film on power plants for the RTS school program and just prior to his arrest in his apartment on Wednesday, October 9, he finished directing a video for the Profil magazine.

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