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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Serbian gangs richer than government
Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic (right) gave life to state-sanctioned mafia
Organised crime in Serbia has more money than the Serbian and Yugoslav governments and is better armed than the police, the Serbian Interior Minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, has warned in an interview to the Austrian daily, Die Presse.

Mr Mihajlovic said his greatest challenge as interior minister has been to fight the rampant corruption and the ever-growing power of crime syndicates.


Milosevic is now in prison, but the mafia is free

Dusan Mihajlovic
He said it was the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, who gave life to the crime syndicates, as "state-sanctioned mafia" that smuggled cigarettes and oil during the international embargo against Yugoslavia.

Even now, cigarettes produced in Macedonia are packaged by the syndicates as Marlboros and distributed via the Balkans into central Europe.

Weapons and prostitutes

The Balkans is also awash with weaponry, from millions of semi-automatics to armoured personnel carriers, either for internal use or for exports, the minister says.

And prostitutes from the former Soviet Union are channelled by crime syndicates through all Balkan countries into the brothels of northern Europe.

Mr Mihajlovic said the crime syndicates have been trying to find a new protector inside the government, since their old one, Mr Milosevic, has lost power.

"Milosevic is now in prison, but the mafia is free," Mr Mihajlovic told the paper.

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Criminal gangs running the Balkans
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