Serbia and Montenegro

Case Closed

Two suspects in the assassination of Zoran Djindjic
An undated file photo of Mile "Kum" Lukovic (L) and Dusan Spasojevic-Siptar, two alleged leaders of the Zemun gang, a mafia-linked group suspected of assassinating Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic (Photo: AFP).

Less than two months after the March 12 murder of Serbia’s reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian police, declaring the case solved, have charged some 45 people with various levels of involvement in the assassination plot. Those charged include ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, now on trial at The Hague, underworld crime figures, and security officials responsible for protecting the late prime minister.

The police investigation points to a joint plot of the so-called Zemun crime gang and political groups once allied with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Seslj, like Milosevic, is on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Police said the Zemun gang felt threatened by what it suspected would be Djindjic’s imminent crackdown on organized crime. Political groups were supposedly fearful of the hand-over of additional suspects to the tribunal. “Djindjic lost his life because he had faith in a peaceful diminution of war mafia and political crime,” Politika’s Ljubodrag Stojadinovic wrote (April 24).

The murder investigation enabled police to crack down on criminal elements allowed to flourish in the 1990s. More than 10,000 people were interrogated and some 4,500 detained on suspicion of various crimes, Vecernje Novosti (April 25) reported. The detainees include the alleged murderer himself, Zvezdan Jovanovic, a former deputy commander of the elite Special Operations Unit (JSO); Milorad Lukovic, the plot’s alleged mastermind and former commander of the JSO; about a dozen other JSO officers; and Zemun gang members.

Danas (April 26) reported that police had arrested two members of the security detail assigned to guard Djindjic’s residence who reportedly received 1,200 euros (US$1,325) for information that the late prime minister had left the house and was on his way to government offices. Also charged were Rade Bulatovic, former President Vojislav Kostunica’s security adviser, and Aco Tomic, until recently chief of army intelligence.

This complex operation is hardly over. “The [post-Djindjic] government has failed so far to offer a full political explanation of what this was all about and how everybody could overlook the coming [assassination] drama,” Politika’s Stojadinovic added (April 24). “Still, there is no word on the responsibility of the authorities for everything that happened.” Vreme’s Milan Milosevic agreed (April 23), adding that after the state of emergency is lifted, the government “will no longer be able to put off answering who was responsible for state security, who was responsible for the prime minister’s safety, how and if the
JSO was controlled, who employed security guards, etc.” Nin’s Dragan Bujosevic (April 24) noted: “The murder of Zoran Djindjic and the police action...showed that it is terribly painful for every face his own past, aims, and possibilities.”