News 24 Oct 13

Authors Spotlight Ex-Yugoslav Arms Smuggling

The authors of a trilogy of books on the illegal weapons trade explained how former Yugoslav states broke arms embargos during the conflicts in the region from 1991 to 1995.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Surc and Zgaga's In the Name of the State trilogy

“The embargo on the sale of arms which existed in all former Yugoslav states was successfully overcome by the state elites, which created an opportunity to earn extra money,” Slovenian journalist Blaz Zgaga, who co-wrote the trilogy on weapons smuggling with Matej Surc, told the Belgrade launch of the Croatian translation on Wednesday.

Zgaga said that the trilogy, entitled In the Name of the State, was based on 6,000 official documents gathered over several years by eight journalists from seven countries – Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Croatia, Poland, Britain and Finland.

Esad Hacimovic, a journalist from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who also worked on the book, said that his research showed that the money for the arms was not provided by the Bosnian state, but mainly from “the Islamic states”.

“It was difficult for me to prove that this was a ‘state job’, but then I got an official state document from Slovenia in which [wartime Bosniak leader] Alija Izetbegovic wrote to [the first president of independent Slovenia] Milan Kucan saying that the person in charge of the smuggling has been appointed by the Bosniak presidency,” Hacimovic said.

Serbian journalist Ljubodrag Stojadinovic said that one of the important findings was about the fate of the weapons owned before the war by the Yugoslav People’s Army, the JNA.

“The JNA became the key generator of the war. It participated in the deadly war, but also, without the arms that were left in military barracks in the states from which the JNA withdrew, the war wouldn’t have been so deadly and tragic,” Stojadinovic said.

According to the book, around 10,000 tons of arms were left in the JNA barracks in Slovenia after the Yugoslav People’s Army withdrew from the country – out of which, 3,800 tons remained in Slovenia, while the rest was sold to Croatia.

The book however has no overall data on the amount of money all the states spent on illegal smuggling, but it does have the information that Slovenia earned 100 million Deutschmarks from the illicit weapons trade.

In the Name of the State was originally published in Slovenian in 2011 and 2012.

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