- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

BELGRADE, Serbia — Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian strongman who died in March, left land and property worth tens of millions of dollars, but no heirs have come forward to claim it, according to lawyers administering his estate.

By law, his heirs have to launch legal action if they wish to take possession of their inheritance. Yet his son, Marko, and his widow, Mirjana Markovic, are both on the run. Wanted in Serbia for fraud, they are believed to have fled to Russia.

His daughter, Marija, also is living in self-imposed exile after it was claimed she fired several shots during the arrest of Mr. Milosevic, who died in jail in The Hague while on trial for war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

As a result, Mr. Milosevic’s estate — which includes two villas in a diplomatic quarter of Belgrade, in addition to land, shares and the contents of private bank accounts — could remain in legal limbo for many years.

Frustrating for the government, which has said it wants to seize all his assets, there is no time limit for his heirs to stake their claim.

“If we knew their address, we could force them to decide, but we don’t even know where they are,” said Savka Mangolic, a deputy public prosecutor.

Mr. Milosevic was buried in his home town of Pozarevac after the Serbian government refused him a state funeral. None of his close family attended.

During his trial, Mr. Milosevic pleaded poverty and his attorneys applied for legal aid to help fund his defense. Yet details of his estate, published last week, show that he was a multimillionaire.

“That man destroyed this country. He ordered politically motivated murders. He should not be allowed the right — even posthumously — to own properties worth millions in prestigious areas,” said Srdjan Sreckovic, the vice president of the Serbian Renewal Party.

Mr. Sreckovic and others say the former Serbian president exploited his position between 1989 and 2000 to buy state-owned properties at bargain-basement prices.

One such property is a sprawling villa in Belgrade’s fashionable Dedinje district — on the same road, Uzicka Street, as the official residence where the former dictator was arrested in March 2001 after a shootout between police officers and his bodyguards.

Mr. Milosevic paid $20,700 for the villa that is worth an estimated $1.88 million and has become the focus of public anger over the extent of his estate. His disputed assets also include about 2 acres of development land in the capital, while other properties in Pozarevac were transferred to his son’s name just before his arrest.

The legal campaign to reclaim the Uzicka Street villa is well under way. Government officials tried to seize the house, arguing that Mr. Milosevic came by it unlawfully, but Belgrade’s municipal court ruled their actions illegal. The judge, Marina Klaric, said the house should remain in Mr. Milosevic’s estate for his heirs to claim.

Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic said the government still hoped to take back the house by proving that Mr. Milosevic had acquired it illegally. It is planning to change the law to help tackle the problem.

“We have prepared a draft law on illegally earned fortunes, looking at similar laws in the United Kingdom and Ireland,” Mr. Stojkovic said. “The new law will be put before parliament soon, but until then, there is nothing we can do.”

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