World Bulletin / News Desk
The European Union has lifted a freeze on the assets of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his close family, saying the people targeted no longer posed a threat to democracy.
Ousted from power in 2000, Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for war crimes including genocide during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. His wife and children fled to Russia.
Reformers who succeeded Milosevic accused him and his cronies of stealing millions of euros from Serbian state coffers and smuggling suitcases of cash to Cyprus. Official investigations, however, went nowhere.
In a decision taken on Tuesday and published on Wednesday, the European Council said there were no grounds to continue the freeze on assets held by Milosevic and his closest associates. The Council argued that he, his family and several former close allies "no longer represent a threat to the consolidation of democracy."
It is not known what assets the family would now have access to as a result of the ruling by the Council, which groups the heads of state or government of the bloc's 28 member countries.
The EU imposed the freeze in 1999, when NATO carried out an 11-week air war to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by Serbian forces under Milosevic waging a brutal counter-insurgency campaignt.
Milosevic was already an international pariah for stirring war in Croatia and Bosnia, where Bosnian Serb forces committed the worst war crimes on European soil since World War Two including the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the United Nations-designated "safe area" of Srebrenica.
Zarko Korac, a minister in the first post-Milosevic government in Serbia, condemned theEuropean Council's decision as proof that "crime pays."
"I feel furious and cheated," he said, speculating that much of the money stolen under Milosevic's regime had found its way back through the purchase of state firms privatised in the years that followed his ouster.
"We can only guess how much money was taken, but it's certainly in the billions," he said.
The Socialist Party once led by Milosevic, and now part of Serbia's pro-EU governing coalition, welcomed the decision. "If any of it was true, it would have been proven," the party said of the accusations against Milosevic.Last Mod: 29 Ekim 2014, 17:32