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The Cigarette War

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    Oligarchic Milosevic Balkan gang Oligarchic Milosevic Balkan gang
    Globus, 20 November 1998 (in Croatian, PDF version)

    Son of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic, Marko Milosevic, Causes DM10 Billion Damage to the European Union Every Year With the Smuggling of Cigarettes to Sweden!


    Report by Željko Peratović

    The peaceful Swedish public was disturbed on 4 November 1998 by a documentary entitled “The Cigarette War” broadcast on the second channel of the state television. This film, made by two Swedish journalists, Anita Jekander and Tonči Percan, who originate from Istra, Croatia, reveals the relations between Serb gangsters from Sweden and the family of FRY President Slobodan Milošević, more precisely, with his son Marko Milošević.


    Tonci PercanTonči Percan in his studio

    The documentary explains in detail why several Mafia-style murders took place in the Swedish capital this year when something like that was unimaginable in this safe country.

    It reveals the background to the cigarette smuggling in Sweden, but also in thewhole European Union, which thus suffers damageto the tune of 10 billion German marks (DM) every year.

    Witnesses from Belgrade, a group of economists gathered around the G-17 independent association, and the politician Zoran Đinđić explain that most of that black marketeering goes through a Yugoslav company whose management board is chaired by Marko Milosević, and that the whole profits from the business, apart from a small share that goes to the Mafia, is used to finance the Yugoslav police and the war in Kosovo.

    Many journalists from the Swedish state television documentary told the Globus journalist that the Yugoslav Ambassador in Stockholm had assessed the film as anti-Serb propaganda ordered by Croats. He was especially worried that the Milošević family was implicated in the story. Our colleagues in Sweden were extremely surprised that it was the only thing that worried the Yugoslav Ambassador, whereas he was not worried that his countrymen had died in the streets of Stockholm and that their murders were ordered from his country, which was declared the country with the worst Mafia, worse even than the Russian Federation.

    The Beginning of Bloody Showdowns

    Recently, the Globus journalist visited Tonči Percan, co-author of the film, and talked to him in his office about his work.

    It is interesting that “The Cigarette War” incorporated television footage from 1981 showing demonstrations by Swedish Croats calling for the release of Franjo Tuđman and Marko Veselica, who were in a Yugoslav prison at the time. The counter-demonstrations of Serbs who gathered in front of the Yugoslav Embassy in Stockholm were also filmed. They were headed by a Mafioso, Dragan Joksovic Jokso. His murder in February 1998 was the first in a sequence of Mafia showdowns in public places in Sweden.

    In the aforementioned footage, Joksa showed his backside to the Croat demonstrators, and the narrator in the documentary explained that the small criminal who had been sent abroad by UDBA [State Security Agency] to perform dirty work against Croat immigrants had thereby gained significant sympathy in Belgrade, and he soon became a media star in Sweden: he appeared in several video spots with famous Swedish pop singers.

    All this and the fact that Tonci Percan, apart from his Swedish one, also has a Croatian passport must have influenced the Yugoslav Ambassador in Stockholm to declare “The Cigarette War” documentary to be “Ustasha propaganda.”


    Dragan Joksovic_JoksoDragan Joksović Jokso on Swedish television. Balkan mobsters like publicity, unlike the Italian.

    Tonči Percan says that the fact he is a Croat did not influence the film in the least. The film, the author claims, is completely Swedish. “The Cigarette War” received favorable criticism in Swedish newspapers, which emphasized that it was commendable for “Swedish television to be able to boast such a research project, equal to a BBC production.”

    “My colleague Anita Jekander and I are freelance journalists. Last year, we made a report on cigarette smuggling for Swedish television news. In February this year, when Dragan Joksovic Jokso was murdered at the Hippodrome, Swedish television contracted us about making a research film on the Serb underworld. The national television company invested about 200,000 German marks in the production of our work, and I think it will be commercial. The film has already been sold in Finland, negotiations with Danish television are underway, and an international version, which should come close to BBC production, is being made.”

    Criminals Serving UDBA

    Swedish newpapers write that the film truthfully shows the terrifying reality of the underworld, full of crime and murder, which is unknown to the average citizen.

    “This film,” says Percan, “has nothing to do with Croatian propaganda, and perhaps as a journalist, I successfully found my way in the story because I covered the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1991 and 1993, and therefore knew southeastern Europe better than the average Swedish journalist.”

    The story of “The Cigarette War” begins with a shot of the memorial service held for Dragan Joksovic Joksa in the Serbian Orthodox Church in Stockholm, whereas the next scene shows a local graveyard in Podgorica, where he was buried in a typically Mafia way: with splendor and pomp. The funeral was attended by Željko Ražnatović Arkan, Jokso’s friend and the Mafia boss who is assumed to have ordered the retaliation.

    Officially, Dragan Joksović Jokso was murdered by a Finn over an unsettled debt. However, Arkan claimed later that Joksa’s murder was ordered by a certain Dragan Ković, and he ordered his men to kill him. Ković was killed while he was having dinner in a Stockholm restaurant last summer.

    The Swedish police were so stunned by this act that the perpetrator, himself wounded in the shooting, managed to get to a hospital, where doctors tended to his wound, and leave the hospital before the police arrived.

    Explaining how the Serb Mafia in Sweden became so strong, the authors included data on Arkan’s robberies of banks and rich people’s villas at the end of 1970s and on how he left Sweden in 1979. Dragan Joksović Joks came from Podgorica that same year and took his place.

    Božidar Spasić, former senior official in the Belgrade UDBA, tells how UDBA used to send criminals such as Joksa and Arkan abroad to harm the Croat and Albanian emigres. If they caused great damage in a particular country, then UDBA would withdraw them or transfer them to another country.

    Spasic was the first in the film to say that the Serb Mafia is still connected with the Serbian authorities, doing their dirty work for them, such as the cigarette smuggling in the entire European Union.


    Anita Brandin, a Swedish official with the European Union for the prevention of tax crime, presented the data that 76 percent of tax violations in the European Union are due to cigarette smuggling that is “headed by the Yugoslav Mafia” and that the European Union loses DM10 billion each year because of that.


    Two Chains of Smuggling

    According to Tonči Percan, of all tax violations in Sweden, only 2 percent involve the smuggling of cigarettes. Last year, Swedish police and customs confiscated 22 million cigarettes, of which 16 million came from Yugoslavia or Macedonia, whereby Macedonia is used only as a transit country for the Yugoslav Mafia.

    It should be mentioned that the Mafia from Russian and the Baltic countries that are geographically much closer to Sweden cannot compete with the Serb Mafia, because the Serb Mafia, although farther away from its headquarters in Belgrade, places far more goods on the Scandinavian market.

    Another particularity about the film “The Cigarette War” is that the authors managed to show the full chain of smuggling. It is revealed that US cigarettes arrive at the port of Antwerp in the Netherlands, where they are not subject to duty because they are meant for a third country, generally Macedonia. The journalists also went to Macedonia and tried to get a statement from the official import company “Macedonia Tabak”, but without success. That company officially resells those cigarettes to Yugoslav companies. The chairman of the management board of one such company is Marko Milosevic. That company exports those goods from the Greek port of Thessalonica, declaring the consignments to contain dried plums, to Sweden and other countries in Western Europe.

    The second part of the chain goes through Montenegro to Italy. The journalists accompanied police at the apprehension of a group of smugglers who transported cigarettes from the port of Bar in Montenegro to the port of Bari in Italy.

    The head of the anti-Mafia police in Bari explains that Montenegro provides refuge for Mafia members from the south of Italy and that the Italian police arrested the chief of police in Bar, who was staying in Italy at that time, because there was reasonable doubt that he was linked to organized crime.

    Carl Bildt, Former Swedish Prime Minister and the High Representative of the European Union in Bosnia-Herzegovina, claims that the sanctions imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by the international community helped the development of crime in that country and its spread within the European Union. During his stay in Herzeg Novi, he saw for himself that the loading of cigarettes onto boats and their transport to Italy was a normal job, and that the police were quite indifferent to it.

    The cigarettes that go through Italy cover the south of Europe. In Spain alone, 15 percent of the total number of tax violations are due to the smuggling of Serb cigarettes.

    The Serb Mafia realizes a huge profit. The cigarettes that they buy from Americans or from the cigarette production company “Prince” in Denmark cost DM1.5 a pack. In Sweden, they are sold for DM10 a pack because, on the legal market, their price is even higher due to the high taxes introduced by the Swedish Government. The same applies in Sweden, where a box of cigarettes costs DM12. In Germany, they are somewhat cheaper, they cost about DM5.

    The Belgrade economists gathered around the G-17 association explain that most of that money ends in the secret funds of the Yugoslav Government from which the police and the war in Kosovo are financed.

    Serbo-Croatian Mafia Connection

    Swedish television made sure Tonci Percan received proper protection after the film was shownd. Several times during our talks – apart from his studio, we talked in a couple of Stockholm restaurants – his mobile phone rang and he explained who he was with and what the journalist he was talking to wanted.

    Percan says that the only negative side of his film was, perhaps, that he will not dare go to Yugoslavia for some time to cover the events in Kosovo.

    Since the film treats in detail the phenomenon of Yugoslavia as the main smugglers country in Europe, we asked Percan if he would be against showing “The Cigarette War” in Croatia.

    “I would not be against it, on the contrary, just let Croatian national television agree with Swedish television on the price,” said Percan.

    In our opinion, something is missing from the film. A great opportunity was missed; an opportunity to describe the relations between the Yugoslav Mafia and the Croatian underworld that the Croatian newspapers wrote so much about on the occasion of Zlatko Bagaric’s murder.

    The best example of those relations is the smuggling of the Serb cigarettes through Podunavlje, in which, it is suspected, the Croatian authorities, customs, and police are involved. So far, the chain was only cut at the Bajakovo border crossing and in the port of Rijeka. The Serb Mafia cigarettes can be bought at the Zagreb market in Utrina, and cigarettes from Montenegro are sold on the Split market.

    According to Globus’ sources, on the Croatian side, certain local politicians from the ruling party are taking part in the black marketeering, as well as some Serb politicians from Podunavlje who are close to the authorities.


    Peratovic StockholmGlobus’ journalist in front of restaurant where Dragan Ković was killed.

    When we asked Tonci Percan if he knew anything about it, he just shrugged. From that, we concluded that one should not cause additional problems for the man who is being stalked by the most dangerous Mafia in Europe.

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