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February 1, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 476
Front Page Story

State Security Widens the Circle

by Filip Svarm

On Sunday, January 27, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Serbian Minister of Police Dusan Mihajlovic and the newly appointed Chief of State Security of the Serbian Ministry of Police, Goran Petrovic, met in the seat of the Democratic Party, in Krunska Street, the building which formerly housed the Iraqi embassy.  At about 7 p.m., just as they were discussing “teams designated for solving past murders,” shots were heard in front of the building.  Petrovic’s driver, Dragan Jaksic was sitting in the drivers seat of the black BMW, license plates 370880, with both his hands bleeding.  According to an unofficial report, a youth with a black hat approached the car which was parked in front of the Democratic Party headquarters, opened the driver’s door and shot Jaksic while he was trying to get his own gun, and then fled in an unknown direction.  Things don’t seems to have gotten off to a flying start for Djindjic: he only just announced that a period has begun in which the new chief of state security will do his job without affairs and without appearing in newspapers, when only after forty-four hours in that job, the new chief appeared on the front page of every newspaper.

WHITE CHRYSANTHEMUMS:  “Evidently there is panic in the ranks of organized crime,” Djindjic stated.  “The attack on the new Chief of State Security is to intimidate us who are part of the new government.”

Mihajlovic was even more specific: “The moment we began severing the connections between organized crime and the former leadership of the police and the government, we began facing reactions that are not unexpected.”

Just as Albanian extremists send a towel and small change and American Mafiosi send white chrysanthemums by way of a message to the effect “you are dead”, so this attack on Petrovic is being interpreted as a message of sorts.  For instance, that the new government should not carry too far its investigations of who killed Slavko Curufija, Radovan Stojcic Badza and many others; that the disappearance of Ivan Stambolic should be relegated to oblivion; that the people behind paramilitary units should not be investigated, nor should the actions of those units be investigated; that the mafia-political businessmen should not be tracked too closely, and that all those things which made Serbia one of the most corrupt and unsafe countries in the world should not be investigated too far…  In short, that the past decade should be forgotten altogether.  If this is not understood, similar warnings will no longer happen – examples of countless assassinations in the past are deadly convincing in this regard.

A segment of the population believes that the attack on Jaksic is only an attempted carjacking, an otherwise frequent occurrence in Belgrade.  It is being said that the country is so far steeped in crime that even the car of the Chief of State Security is not safe from jacking, with a similar incident cited in this respect when in 1998 the Mercedes of the wife of Richard Miles, American Charge d’Affaires in Belgrade at the time, was stolen in similar fashion.

However, this case somehow does not fit into this picture.  And here’s why: Djindjic is famous for his many and very visible bodyguards which protects the party headquarters in Krunska Street, especially when he’s there; the place where the car was parked is monitored by cameras from the entrance to the building; diagonally across from the street is the Hungarian embassy, which is protected with similar equipment, and directly across is a building which is said to belong to the Security Headquarters of the Yugoslav Army.  A “professional” who by the very nature of his job would be familiar with such things, this task would be to risky and complicated.  There are all too many streets and parking places where the same theft can be carried out with far less risk.

It could be that Jaksic was attacked by some general utility criminal.  A fellow was walking along Krunska Street with a gun and a black ski hat; he saw a BMW, decided on the spur of the moment to attack, panicked, shot and fled.  If it turns out that this is at stake, then this thief has reason for serious concern: he is being sought after by the State Security, by the Police, and by the auto-mafia who are under very close scrutiny these days.  In any case, the car of wife of Mr. Miles was returned to her, as soon as it was found out who it belongs to.

SPECIAL FORCES:  In spite of the interpretation of the symbolism of the shooting of Jaksic’s hands (“don’t touch” and “leave it alone”) by certain experts, there is still a lot that remains unclear in this case.  It is a fact that the wounding of the driver or the attempted theft of a car does not fit into existing patterns here: whenever there was shooting, death was inevitable, with the attack directed at the principal target, with anyone else taking a hit only after or by accident.  However, it is also a fact that the liquidation of Petrovic would have caused a flood against the former military-police leadership.  A new Chief of State Security would have been more radical and brutal in continuing his predecessors job under the pressure of public opinion which would be thirsting for a lynch.  There are indications that since the attack in Krunska Street, the new government is launching “the burning of the Reichstag” and is appointing its people in the police wholesale.

Whether on purpose or whether by accident, the whole matter now appears like a settling of scores within State Security itself: the previous guard is letting the new one know that they are still capable of tracking everyone’s movements and are able to liquidate everyone and in every place.  The fact that they still did not do it means that they are still guided by reason; if they become desperate, everything is possible.  Even if Jaksic’s assailant were to be arrested in the near future and if he were to admit to shooting out of personal motives, nothing would change significantly in this whole impression.  The effect of intimidation and threats has been achieved: politicians will continue increasing their security personnel, policemen, prosecutors and judges will continue to worry in performing their jobs, while Petrovic suspect his subordinates, from his assistants to the lowest ranked officers.

In explaining why the meeting with Mihajlovic and Petrovic took place in the Democratic Party headquarters, Djindjic stated that “rooms do not constitute politics” and that he did not want to use government buildings for a meeting held on Sunday.  However, just as the Serbian Police internet site (on January 30) still has the picture of Rade Markovic as Chief of State Security, in the same way no one can be sure that the walls in the government building do not have ears and that everything that is said about investigations of connections between organized crime and the former police and political leadership will not be carried directly to those same people.  And those people are hardly lacking in directness and lack of concern, as is in any case true for all those involved in illegal matters where large amounts of money are being circulated and for which people get killed.

What awaits the new government as far as organized crime and the police chiefs are concerned is by no means simple.

Guided by the principle that it’s better that they remain within the tent and relieve themselves outside, instead of the other way around, DOS took a very friendly approach toward many people who are part of the State Security – for instance the Red Berets special forces.  Also stressing that the organization and the operation of the Serbian Police must change from the foundations, the representatives of the new government did not take to account police officials and officers, except for Rade Markovic.  A certain continuity in the service is seen from the appointments made to the positions of assistants to the Chief of State Security; the people in question are followers of Jovica Stanisic who was replaced as head of state security by Markovic’s people two years ago.

The onus is on Djindjic and Mihajlovic to prove that the people they are appointing are truly honest and capable of dealing with the entire heritage left behind for them by the former regime which, let us not kid ourselves, many of them were part of.  If all those who committed various crimes, from professional assassinations to illegal amassing of wealth, are brought to justice, then this state of affairs will be alright.  However, if the public continues to speculate and guess as to who stands behind all those assassinations and attacks such as this one against the driver of Goran Petrovic, Chief of State Security, then everything will boil down to another one of “our games” played out within the Security Service and the political-Mafioso lobby connected to it.

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