January 18, 1993 Vreme News Digest Agency No 69

Montenegro

Captured Patrol

by Velizar Brajovic

"Captured petrol" was the last in a series of affairs which marked the brief but passionate relationship between Mr Jezdimir Vasiljevic and the Montenegrin government.

Capturing the "Jugoskandic" petrol "super 98" in bonded warehouses in Bar (Montenegrin port) was one in a series of events which were the evidence of notorious finalization of the "business of the century" between the Montenegrin government and the well-known businessman Mr Jezdimir Vasiljevic. Hardly anybody expected such a turnabout particularly since Mr Vasiljevic was pompously granted the keys of the fashionable summer resort Sveti Stefan. The more so after he gathered the most liable people from the Montenegrin authorities on his extravagant party in hotel "Milocer", which took place on the very day when the international sanctions were enforced. Then and there the message to the international conspirators was sent that the day will come when they will all fall on their knees and "beg for mercy".

However, it didn't take long before the news were spread of "Boss Jezda" not paying the third instalment of the rent for Sveti Stefan, neither forth nor fifth. Both sides kept this jealously as a secret until Montenegrin government revealed the information that Mr Vasiljevic's obligations had been frozen until the end of the sanctions.

Until that moment, citizens were constantly assured by media that with Vasiljevic as a partner there was no need for Montenegrins to worry - there wouldn't be any shortages particularly not in petrol during the rough economic embargo. In other words, nobody wanted to disappoint the citizens by telling them the truth. The non-observance of the business-of-the-century contract had been already forgotten and pushed aside by announcement and preparations for the sensational chess-tournament between Bobby Fisher and Boris Spasky, in Sveti Stefan.

Since boss Jezda was the one deserving credit for organizing the chess-match of the century in which he invested more than 15 million dollars, the first anniversary of the proclamation of Montenegro as a world first ecological state was completely flowing through under the sign of boss Jezda. He sponsored this celebration, and the Montenegrin government declared the match Fisher-Spasky an ecological event of the year - in return. The day he was pompously given the award was never to be forgotten by some who were present at the party. That day was marked by the fact that Boss Jezda entered the crowded hotel hall full of distinguished foreign guests before the leader of the Montenegro, Mr Momir Bulatovic.

However, the voice of disapproval of the employed workers from the Sveti Stefan hotel raised more loudly every day, speaking of their rights lost in the Sveti Stefan lease contract. They got the worst of a bargain, neither salaries nor any other rights, although they've been promised a moon on the occasion of the Sveti Stefan lease.

Purchased exterritoriality of Sveti Stefan was protected by 150-200 armed men hired by Boss Jezda, said the embittered employed workers. They were a holy terror. The local citizens couldn't understand why was this tolerated by the authorities of Montenegro, when it publicly repeated that on the territory of Montenegro only a members of Army and Police were allowed to carry arms. In Sveti Stefan, it was so full of armed men in various uniforms enjoying their holidays, that one could have mistaken the whole thing for the scene of some action film on terrorists, financed by Western producers.

The President of the Government Agency for Restructuring Milutin Lalic stated that whereas Mr Vasiljevic was having some difficulties lately, since the Fisher-Spasky tournament didn't bring the expected economic effect, everything would be dissolved according to the contract. Besides that, he informed the public, Mr Jezdimir Vasiljevic is very concern to make a further investment in Montenegro. He already put his 300.000 dollars into the factory for leather ready-made clothes "Polimka" in Berane, and the further investments in port Bar and the Tobacco Combine in Podgorica are to be expected.

News that boss Jezda got a court prohibition against the use of his own petrol to the amount of 6 million dollars appeared as a shock. The more so because Montenegrin government gave the opportunity to the independent judiciary to make such a decision against yesterday's "golden goose". No official information were revealed on this topic.

However, the court made this decision at the request of the Bank of Personal Economy, the same Bank that gave shelter to Mr Vasiljevic after the last year's prohibition against partly discharge of his business in Serbia. This bank's license served for the resumption of "Jugoskandic" banks in Belgrade and Serbia. However, as we were told by our source close to the Montenegrin government and this bank, the leading bank circles estimated that the future partnership with Jugoskandic would be correlated with a series of risks which could jeopardized the interest of their savers. In fact, Mr Vasiljevic is already not servicing neither the interests nor the capital amount of his depositors. Bank of Personal Economy have outstanding debts for over 4 million DEM from the Jugoskandic. As the new obligations are approaching, final unpaid debt could amount to more than 15 million marks. Since Mr Vasiljevic is refusing to settle an account and discharge his obligations the Bank did what it did, mainly because of the savers concern. Nowadays, the Bank is successfully and without any obstacles paying out the interest and the capital amount to its customers.

In fact, this is, according to our source again, only the reflection of the much serious dispute between boss Jezda and the Montenegrin government. It all started after the aformentioned celebration, when the Montenegrin government gave Mr Vasiljevic a license to open a chain of petrol stations countrywide. The government decided to rent out several "Jugopetrol" stations to Mr Vasiljevic, which was not welcomed by its workers. Resistance was breaked by fireing the directors of the "Jugopetrol", and the tanks of that firm had begun to fill up with gasoline that came from everywhere, which would provide a constant and stable market-supply of petrol for Serbia and Montenegro. Until one failed deal provoked a secret war between the partners. Mr Vasiljevic appeared in Podgorica in October with his partner known as Ben the Jew, and he deposited in a safe place 36 million DEM, ment for the purpose of paying a 100 000 tons of oil and derivatives from a Greek businessman. From that amount to London was transferred 9 million DEM on behalf of insurance. Everything should have been smooth if according to plan. However, according to our source, the deal was never accomplished since the Federal Minister for Economic Relations Blagoje Lucic intervened. He demanded from the Greek a commission for striking a bargain which was unacceptable for Greek businessman, so the petrol disappeared. The Jew wanted his money back but with 8 million DEM of interest. Conflict in this triangle lasted too long and we don't know if they came to any agreement at all. Our source maintained positively that Mr Vasiljevic reestablish his 24 millions, which were transported to him by certain man known as the "Montenegrin Rambo".

Did Mr Vasiljevic frozen his obligations towards Bank of Personal Economy because of the aforementioned, or did he happened to have some more unsettled problems is yet to be seen. According to our source, Vasiljevic provoked the outrage of his partners from the Montenegrin authorities because he cheated and without their consent did some uncontrolled withdrawal of oil for Serbian market. The government allegedly set its face against Mr Vasiljevic's intention to transfer the "captured petrol" to Serbia. During his December stay in Podgorica, Mr Vasiljevic according to our sources, proposed a Government to buy up that gasoline and defray a Bank of Personal Economy, but on Boss Jezda's offer of 60 pfennings per liter the Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic offered a price of only 45 pfennings. Whether will Vasiljevic fulfill his obligations and restitute back his gasoline is yet to be seen.