I do not know whether the Albanian who broke into our governor’s hotel room on the Montenegrin coast wanted to rob her, believing that every governor, and therefore our governor too, by default carries on their person the state’s gold bullions (when going on a business trip), or whether he wanted to intimidate and force her to stop the investigation about the “Cyprus money.”
The Montenegrin police said that the perpetrator is a common thief known to them, and definitely not a terrorist or a member of a criminal organization ready to assassinate the Serbian governor.
If it wasn’t for the intrusion of this hardened thief into the governor’s room, we wouldn’t have found out that our National Bank, i.e. our governor, is investigating the massive removal of money from Serbia during the Milosevic’s regime. How come our tabloid party press missed this scoop and failed to put it on the front page? How come no one from the relevant position tipped them off, which is the habit lately? Who knows how much longer we would remain uninformed, if it wasn’t for the Albanian who sneaked into the governor’s bedroom at five o’clock in the morning. Or maybe we wouldn’t have been informed at all, because our governor’s effort is to no avail. But, since she interrupted the burglary and since the explanation that the burglar’s intention was to steal some trivial rings, bracelets and necklaces would sound too modest, the sensationalist story about death threats over the “Cyprus money” was conveniently “upgraded”. This is how we got a topic that the entire Serbia was talking about five or six days before the Pride Parade.
How come that our governor started to act like captain Thompson at Isla de Coco? And what is the “Cyprus money” anyway?
Ever since the fall of Milosevic’s regime, the average Serb imagines this money as King Solomon’s hidden treasure or buried treasure of the church on Isla de Coco. Every now and again some politician or party mentions this, wanting to make people drool over the fact that our billions which Milosevic robbed, that could save us from doom, are sitting at some hiding place.
It is interesting that the first thing Dinkic did when he became governor, if anyone still remembers his ideas, was to go to Cyprus and look for the “treasure.” Since then, the story remains that he had found the money and hid it for himself. Dinkic’s investigation ended somewhat mysteriously and unceremoniously. We didn’t find out anything and the speculations remained about how the new democratic government got their hands on those billions.
The Cyprus treasure became part of the oral tradition of a people robbed in the early 1990s by a remarkably skillful mix of hyperinflation and Ponzi schemes. Coincidentally, on a flight from Belgrade to Larnaca in 1992, I witnessed a public-political-banking delegation, including some still well-known persons (and back then, probably Milosevic’s persons of confidence), literally carrying money in suitcases to Cyprus. Milosevic was really moving the money out of the country, both from the government’s foreign exchange reserves and the money he managed to rob from the people’s mattresses, who kept it there as an only safe place for their own foreign exchange reserves.
How much money was taken out then?
There are no reliable sources or data. An amount of between four and ten billion of then German marks is mentioned, and serious estimates suggest that it was about four billion marks (this is an approximate amount in today’s euros). The drastic difference in numbers is possible due to lack of understanding of the essence of “paying bills”. Namely, the amount that was taken out of the country was used to pay for the imported/smuggled energy, food and consumer goods, but it is undoubtedly true that the Family kept (approximately) between two and four billion for themselves.
All this happened 20 years ago, and a lot of things happened in the meantime to Milosevic, his family and Serbia. The collapse of the Milosevic regime, his arrest, trial, and death in the Hague, the escape of the Family from Serbia, transition and privatization – impacted the capital that Milosevic moved out of the country in the early 1990s.
Of course, none of these riches remained in Cyprus – our governor is the only one who is still trying to make us believe that; she would be too naïve if she intimately believes that the money is still “buried” in Cyprus.
Part of that money was returned to Serbia and spent on privatization. Just look at the many companies (and, until recently, banks) owned by Milosevic’s close associates from that period. Yes, some of those looted money was returned to Serbia, and some socialists used it to become businessmen after the democratic changes. Some of them are still operating, although quite difficultly and mostly owe the state immense amounts in taxes and don’t repay the loans to the banks.
Part of the money was transferred from Cyprus to Moscow after the Family’s escape from Serbia. A true anecdote from this period remained – a Serbian businessman close to the Milosevic family was offered his American “green card” back if he reveals a capillary network of sites where the Milosevics keep that money in Russia. Of course, loyalty (or fear for his life) overshadowed business interest, so the looted money from Serbia remained in the Russian financial dark realm, to serve the Family as they live comfortably in Moscow’s exclusive neighborhood – where only Russian tycoons can afford the houses – and manage their business.
The money looted from the citizens of Serbia in the early 1990s has long been laundered through domestic privatization and operations of international financial channels and those who “gained it” are now respectable businessmen or coalition partners.
Traces of the stolen money were covered long ago, documents were misplaced and transactions were verified and validated.
What Maja Kocijancic and the European Commission claim – that the accounts the Milosevic family are still frozen – is true, but, as far as I know, the EU, especially now, has no access to Russian banks.
Is there room for new investigations?
Not a lot, but it sounds good. Cyprus is a favorite Serbian myth, but, unfortunately, it is already spent. Both metaphorically and literally.
Therefore, the story of a naïve Albanian burglar who believed that our governor carries with her at least one gold bullion would sound more plausible. It would be far more effective than a later devised spin that the burglar was a part of a well thought-out plan of some hellish “well-known” circles who wanted to signal our governor to “stop the nonsense” and stop looking for the buried treasure in Cyprus.
Had the petty robbery attempt been turned into a joke, our governor could have returned to her regular activities, such as sending letters to the Government of Serbia and guarding the dinar against the onslaught of speculators.
Translated by Marijana Simic