- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

From combined dispatches

THE HAGUE The U.N. war-crimes tribunal suspended legal aid yesterday to a Bosnian Serb who pocketed at least $175,000 the United Nations gave him for legal fees.

Zoran Zigic, a former taxi driver, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in November 2001 after being convicted of torturing and killing prisoners at Bosnian prison camps.

Until yesterday, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia paid all Zigic's legal fees about $1.4 million because he declared himself destitute when his case was brought to the court in April 1998.

The court said yesterday that he kept at least $175,800 and passed the money on to family and friends.

"What matters to us, beyond this unacceptable type of behavior, is protecting the integrity of the legal system," tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier told the Associated Press.

The Washington Times reported in May that a practice known as "fee-splitting," in which defendants get kickbacks from their U.N.-paid lawyers, was common at the tribunal.

It has enabled war criminals' families to open supermarket chains, luxury shops, pharmacies and coffee shops as well as build big houses.

When Zigic's trial began in 1998, the court said it had verified his assertion that he had no assets and lived in a run-down house owned by his parents.

Yesterday the court said it had discovered the value of assets owned by Zigic or his family was at least $124,000, including two apartments, a business and three cars.

His parents home in Prijador, in the Bosnian Serb Republic, was renovated, increasing its value, from about $15,000 to $50,000, the documents said.

The court said Zigic must fund his own appeal, estimated to cost $34,000, and that it reserves the right to recover funds it lost in the swindle.

Zigic's former senior counsel, Simo Tosic, organized the scheme, which included payments by the court to "two investigators who never actually performed work for the defense," said documents from the tribunal's registrar.

Nearly all defendants at the Yugoslav tribunal have requested financial support, saying they do not have sufficient funds to cover the costs of their defense.

The most notable exception is former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, indicted for war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia.

Mr. Milosevic rejects the legitimacy of the court and is conducting his own defense, largely financed by international supporters.


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