Ratting Out Slobo

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At the heart of every great criminal enterprise, prosecutors will tell you, is an insider willing to sing. In Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia, potential informers were terrorized into silence by some of the most expert hit men in Europe. But with the ex-president behind bars, one man has emerged as stool pigeon No. 1. Mihalj Kertes, an unctuous 53-year-old of Hungarian descent, was head of the federal customs bureau in Belgrade — an unremarkable post in a normal country, but one that in Serbia placed him at the heart of an illegal network that extended to Milosevic, his inner circle and as far as Bosnia and Croatia.

By imposing a variety of quasi-legal levies at Serbia's borders, Kertes amassed billions of dollars in cash and confiscated property, which he then redistributed to Milosevic and his top aides for use in whatever project the regime had going — from electoral campaigns to, allegedly, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Significantly, he kept receipts. "Kertes was the second most important man in the country," recalls Dragan Vasiljkovic, a former paramilitary trainer from the Balkan wars who led the armed squad that detained the customs chief on the day after Serbia's October revolution as he frantically shredded documents in his office. "I knew that if you arrested him then Milosevic was gone." Full Story...