Serb war crimes fugitive 'was hiding in Russia'

Goran Hadzic could be transferred to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Friday afternoon, his lawyer said.

Serb war crimes fugitive 'was hiding in Russia'

Serbia's last major war crimes suspect was able to evade capture thanks to a network of hardliners and may have spent time in Russia, according to the country's president and investigators.

Goran Hadzic could be transferred to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Friday afternoon, his lawyer said. He confirmed the 52-year-old had fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife during his years on the run.

"He will be transferred to The Hague after his families visit today and tomorrow. It could happen from Friday afternoon," Toma Fila said on Thursday.

Hadzic, a Croatian Serb wartime leader, was indicted for crimes against humanity during the 1991-95 Croatian war.

Serbian security officials arrested him on Wednesday on a forest road in the Fruska Gora national park region about 65 km (40 miles) north of Belgrade.

"He did not resist arrest, he froze for a moment when he saw the arrest team," said a state security operative who did not want to be named. "He had a handgun but didn't reach for it."

O fficials believe Hadzic had spent at least part of his time on the run in Russia and had investigated electronic payments linked to him , the operative said .

Serbian President Boris Tadic said authorities would use military intelligence and state security agencies to un mask a network of hardliners who had helped war crime suspects evade justice .

"The intelligence community is now largely purged of major operatives who were tied to (ex-President Slobodan) Milosevic's regime, but they retained their old networks and contacts," the operative said.

"For example, we want to see who was responsible for supplying fugitives with identification papers and travel documents."

The operative said Hadzic's network of helpers "was likely comprised of people involved in murky dealings" in the 1990s when Serbia was an international pariah.

"His business buddies and wartime comrades from Milosevic's secret service and underworld were the core of his network; there's little ideology in his case," the official said.

"Hadzic 's trial will be interesting, because if he speaks out, many people, some still active, may land in jail for a myriad of crimes."

Although Hadzic was among the less prominent ethnic Serb wartime leaders, he came into greater focus as the final suspect sought by the United Nations war crimes tribunal after the arrest in May of wartime Serb General Ratko Mladic.

The European Union has insisted on the arrest of all war crimes suspects for Belgrade to progress towards eventual membership of the bloc. EU leaders were quick to hail Serbia for arresting Hadzic, a key figure in the breakaway wartime Krajina Serb republic in Croatia.

Art mystrey

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor had said on Wednesday that a stolen painting thought to be by Italian figurative artist Amedeo Modigliani gave investigators an essential clue to Hadzic's whereabouts.

Hadzic's lawyer denied on Thursday that his client had anything to do with such a work of art.

"There is no Modigliani: he neither tried to sell or sold one," Fila said. "If he had sold such art, they would never have found him. This is the best proof that the Modigliani does not exist."

Experts were uncertain if the painting in question, a portrait of a man, was real or fake, stolen or legitimately owned.

"It is difficult to ascertain whether the painting is original without expertise from appropriate institutions from abroad who study Modigliani," said Petar Petrovic, a curator with the Serbian National Museum.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Temmuz 2011, 14:40