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The crime have no frontier in the new Balkans

The violent disintegration of Yugoslavia - the fragmentation, corruption and shadowy political interests - have spawned a ruthlessly efficient, unbiased and deadly network of organized crime spanning the entire Balkans, experts warn.

A Croatian criminal may kill as a favour to Serbian partner. He may then pass the tab to a Montenegrin 'businessman' he owes. And so on - all under the umbrella of trafficking drugs, people, weapons and money laundering. And under the noses of secret services also in the know.

'It's all intertwined. Organized crime is unhampered by borders that block police from different countries,' said Hajrudin Merdanovic, a retired Croatian policeman.

Mobsters deal with borders much more easily than the authorities. If a criminal needs business to be settled on the other side, he can travel without notifying foreign capitals.

Much of former Yugoslavia speaks the same language. Many criminals have several passports and travel the region freely. Even when there is a problem to go some place, a phone call may do.

'Mobsters from Serbia, Croatia or Bosnia do each others favours for money or for another favour,' Merdanovic told Deutsche Presse-Agentur in Zagreb a week after a Croatian journalist was killed in a possible joint venture of Croatian and Serbian crime.

A Croatian journalist who both wrote about the Balkans' organized crime and reportedly had links with it, Ivo Pukanic, was killed in a bomb blast in central Zagreb on October 23.

A week later, police arrested 10 people, including a Croatian hitman who operated in Serbia and Bulgaria while he rode an escape car with an intimate counsellor of a Serbian crime boss.

The alleged hitman, Robert Matanic, served time in Serbia for weapons-smuggling. Later, in 2006, a Bulgarian court released him after failing to prove that he took part in two gangland-style attacks which left nine people dead.

Now he was caught while trying to escape to Serbia with forged documents while driving with the man handling the finances for the feared Sreten Jocic, reputed king of the Balkans heroin and cocaine trade, with interests and tabs in the entire region.

Apart from exposing the links of Croatian and Serbian organized crime, the Pukanic murder was also also carried out in the 'signature method' of the Balkan mafia, the Zagreb daily Vecernji List said.

Remotely-detonated bombs have killed in Belgrade, in Bosnian cities Sarajevo and Banja Luka and also in Zagreb since 1991. The devices were even used in the 1995 attempt on the former Macedonian president, Kiro Gligorov.

However, such crime in the Balkans could not have grown without a nod from politicians and the support of secret services chasing and mixing national and private interests in the chaos of the 1990s, analysts have agreed over the past 15 years.

Most of the bosses in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia once served the Yugoslav and later their national secret service and were allowed to peddle drugs, prostitutes and weapons in return.

Though wars have ended, the feedback crime and secret services, which are believed to be beyond full control in virtually all former Yugoslav republics, have not been terminated, Merdanovic warned.

'Look at the biographies of leading underworld figures. ... many of them worked for secret police,' he said. 'The influence of secret services on their work is still enormous.'

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