TRANSITIONS ONLINE: Slovenia: The Arms Trade: Humanitarian Robbery
18 July 1994
The scandal that rocked Slovenia a year ago got its epilogue when a senior Bosnian government member faced a hearing in the Slovenian parliament.
The scandal broke when Slovenian Defence Minister Janez Jansa spectacularly disclosed 20 cargo containers at Maribor airport filled with over 120 tons of weaponry. He called an ad hoc press conference and accused several members of Slovenia's state security and the airport director of arms smuggling. It soon became clear that every key Slovenian politician knew about the arms and that the disclosure was just another method used by Jansa to discredit his political opponents.
The truth behind the scandal was revealed when Hasan Cengic, Bosnian diplomat and representative of the Bosnian Defence Ministry, army and military industry, faced the parliamentary hearing.
Cengic confirmed that the 120 tons of weapons belonged to the Bosnian government and said it was natural for Slovenia to help BosniaHerzegovina for principled reasons, out of political wisdom, respect for human rights and international justice. He also voiced regret that the scandal that cost Slovenia several hundred million dollars had broken out. He boasted of being the most disciplined Slovene since he hadn't breathed a word but had appeared before the parliamentaty commission to help solve the situation.
He testified that the arms shipments, as a form of aid, had been approved by the Slovenian government and that key people had been informed.
``I already had good contacts with the Interior Ministry and the civilian Intelligence Service and I suggested the idea to the Intelligence Service Director. Those institutions knew we were going to ship arms together with humanitarian aid. Transport was difficult at the time because relations between Bosnia and Croatia were tense. To solve the problem we decided to set up an airlift from Maribor to the free territory in Bosnia. That was the main reason why we chose Maribor airport,'' Cengic explained.
He said the deal had been made with Miha Brejc, then Director of the Intelligence Service. ``We agreed that we would first ship humanitarian aid and I insisted that we would try to smuggle some arms in with it.'' Cengic added that other intelligence officers knew what was happening.
He said there were other arms shipments through Slovenia with official contacts being made through the then Interior Minister Bavcar. The contact at the Slovenian Defence Ministry was Andrej Lovsin, head of military intelligence.
Cengic also denied earlier statements from the cabinet of Slovenian President Milan Kucan that Slovenia had decided to make a gift of part of its arsenal to Bosnia because of the aggression. ``There were no gifts from Slovenia. We paid for everything. Everything we took we paid for. The police were paid in cash.''
The Bosnian government gave Slovenia its Huey 212 helicopter, as a guarantee for the deal.
Cengic said transactions with Jansa were the most difficult. Jansa presented the Bosnian government with a bill for 3,119,000 DM but Cengic wanted a complete set of documents and a discount. ``I wanted either a full receipt or to pay in cash. Jansa promised to send all the documents to Zagreb and tell us how to make the payment. I still haven't received anything.''
Because this was an internationally banned transaction the Bosnian government paid for the weapons it took but got no receipt. Jansa responded to the Bosnian complaints over the cost saying the prices were not negotiable.
Fikret Abdic also bought several hundred rifles from Slovenia.
``We got between 3,000 and 35,000 rifles and pistols from the Slovenian police. Those cost somewhere between 1.2 and 1.6 million DM. The Defence Ministry sold us arms valued between 1.2 and 2 million DM. The bill Jansa gave us was reduced by a million DM in the meantime but I don't know how or why,'' Cengic told the parliamentary commission.
Everything was done without paperwork. The Bosnian government did not insist on documents because of the arms embargo, Cengic said.
He concluded by saying: ``The people in Maribor are professionals. They were doing their job. No one got any money.''
The Cengic testimony stirred up a lot of comment, the most interesting from parts of the press close to Jansa.
Ljubljana daily ``Delo'' eagerly awaited Cengic's testimony but said it was worthless after the hearing because he's a foreigner and can say anything.
Brejc, the former intelligence service director, denied Cengic's statements and repeated he knew nothing about the arms shipments. His statement is not entirely credible in view of testimony by regular police officers who said Brejc personally had prevented searches of helicopters at Maribor airport.
The truth probably lies closer to the Cengic testimony which has been confirmed by informed sources in the Slovenian police. The arms transports initially went through Jansa but at some point became too expensive and the Interior Ministry took over. Jansa disclosed the arms in Maribor only after the first reports in the Slovenian press and accused rival arms dealers and ``the Kucan people,'' his pet hate.
Jansa's Ministry, and possibly he personally, earned vast amounts from the deals with the Bosnian government. Sources in the Ljubljana magazine ``Mladina'' said the Bosnian government spent over 36 million DM in arms deals with Slovenia. 30 million of that amount went to an ``informal group of dealers'' who have now turned out to be Jansa's close associates. They were the third source for arms purchases in Slovenia, alongside the police and Defence Ministry.
On the other hand, the Bosnian deal accounts for just one tenth of Slovenia's arms trade since it sold much more weaponry to Croatia. The money from those transactions is not in the Slovenian treasury. No one knows where the money went nor what commissions were paid to the dealers.
Many of Jansa's friends have since built houses, bought restaurants or rented tourist facilities.
The epilogue is that generous aid to the suffering brethren in Bosnia is worth close to half a billion DM. Svetlana VasovicMekina
OBEDIENCE PAYS OFF
Croatia has been warned against military intervention in Krajina. If it obeys it can expect rewards such as the loan from the International Development and Reconstruction Bank it got recently
Croatia's parliament is entering its fifth month of crisis with no indication that the opposition will attend the next session, its refugees are blocking UNPROFOR at every turn, but some good news is trickling in.
The first agreement has been signed with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development on a 128 million dollar loan and the European Council Parliament President Miguel Angel Martinez said a decision in principle had been reached on admitting Croatia to the Council of Europe.
The loan was interpreted by Croatia's government as support for its stabilization program which managed to curb inflation. Government spokesmen said this was just the first of many loans and added that another 220 million dollars could come in this year earmarked for roads, housing, power facilities, and agriculture.
Even though the loans are big they aren't big enough since damages inflicted by war have to be repaired, prewar production levels restored and the standard of living raised to prevent experts from migrating from the republic.
The loan is primarily a US political move, aimed at rewarding Croatia's obedience. The US used the loan to show Croatia what it can expect if it implements the right policies.
The US Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, confirmed that it was part of a carrot and stick policy. He told the Croatian leaders in no uncertain terms that his country won't support efforts to reintegrate the Krajina militarily and that it does not support the blockade of UNPROFOR.
His statement came as a direct response to the increasingly aggressive announcements, made even by President Tudjman, that the Croatian army would march into Knin after all the peaceful methods were exhausted.
Galbraith made it clear the US would not give Croatia the go ahead for a military intervention.
That is one of the reasons why the next Croatian Parliament session is expected with interest. That session is scheduled to discuss the future of UNPROFOR in the republic.
The outcome of that session will show whether the US carrot and stick policy can work or whether Tudjman will be overwhelmed by the radical wing in his ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The proposed solutions to the Bosnia crisis drawn up by the Contact Group will play an important role.
Tudjman advocated the theory that Bosnia and Croatia were two different issues only recently realizing how intertwined they are. The Croats are openly satisfied with the latest maps since some 90% of their people in Bosnia and Herzegovina would remain inside Croat or Moslem Croat federation cantons. They'll probably accept the proposed maps despite the corridor in Posavina, Northern Bosnia.
Miguel Angel Martinez offered an even bigger carrot during his visit to Zagreb. ``The process of Croatia's joining the Council of Europe has been unblocked. We want Croatia at our table. There will be a void as long as Croatia is not a full member of our institution. Croatia should become a member of the European Council during my Presidency, in the next few months.''
The situation has changed dramatically over the past year when Croatia was threatened with a repeal of its special guest status and it will now become the second former Yugoslav republic, after Slovenia, to join the Council by mid1995 at the latest.
Martinez said the process was stopped by MoslemCroat clashes in Bosnia, lack of liberties especially in the media, ethnic and human rights. He said a final decision would come after an expert group visits Croatia.
Martinez had another message. He told the republic's political leaders that he holds a high opinion of ``my friend Stipe Mesic,'' an HDZ dissident who has clashed openly with Tudjman. He added that Mesic's efforts had prevented Croatia from losing its place in the Council. He hugged Mesic publicly during his visit sending a clear message to Tudjman.
Martinez said forced expulsions from homes or the statecontrolled Croatian TV should not be covered up and must be solved with no political connotations or exaggerations.
President Tudjman evidently has reason to be happy over the amount of good vibrations coming into Croatia which are not accidental. But will he survive the current political situation with the reintegration of the Krajina as his main task? One thing is certain, the world is far from considering him an ideal partner but has opted to play with him as long as he is obedient.
© Transitions Online 2020. All rights reserved. ISSN 1214-1615
Published by Transitions o.s., Baranova 33, 130 00 Prague 3, Czech Republic.