SAT, 12 FEB 2000 16:36:51 GMT
Investigation into the background of "arms trade deals" which in Slovenia reached their peak at the time of the disintegration of former SFRY, is increasingly resembling the plot of a bad detective story
AIM Ljubljana, January 29, 2000
The last, movie-like sequence took place after the hearing of Anton Peinkiher, former chief of VOMA (Slovenian Military Intelligence Service) before a Special Parliamentary Commission. Rudi Moge, Chairman of the mentioned Commission tasked with discovering unknown details of this trade in arms, publicised a sensational news that things were moving from a standstill and that new details were discovered at the hearing which was
closed for the public. Moge revealed that the former chief of Jansa's (at that time the Defence Minister) intelligence agents confessed that he was involved in the arms deal, that most transactions were paid in cash and that "he himself counted the money" which included "enormous sums" of foreign currency which he then handed over to Anton Krkovic, former commander of the Moris brigade ("special" brigade of the Slovenian Army stationed in Kocevska Reka). The Moris Brigade was Janez Jansa's right hand (at that time the Defence Minister).
And then a new surprise followed - a day after the information about new evidence was made public, competent Assembly bodies informed that there records of that key hearing were missing. Secretary General of the Parliament sent a written notice to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission that a "technical mistake" was made, meaning that, by some miracle, technicians who tape all parliamentary sessions had not taped the hearing of the VOMA Director which lasted from 9:00 a.m. till 9:40 a.m.
The scandal was further seasoned by rumours that those present at Peinkiher's hearing gave contradictory statements about his testimony.
This is not the first example of the "disappearance" of key documents linked to arms trade; in the past too following the leads from the newspapers, the Slovenian courts have tried to investigate the background of scandals with the sale and transportation of arms, but to no avail.
It is interesting that Rudi Moge's predecessor, i.e. Chairman of that same Parliamentary Commission which was investigating arms business in the previous term, came to the conclusion that the truth "would be harmful to the state". That dispersed all the enthusiasm for solving the mystery of
shady deals closed at the time of the creation of the Slovenian state.
That is when the first shorthand notes disappeared; a Parliament's commission was investigating the Vic-Holmec affair after the tabloid "The Slovenian News" (Slovenske Novice) published that during ten-day battle with the members of YPA (Yugoslav peoples' Army), the Slovenian Territorial Defence (TO) kept shooting at them even after they had surrendered. It so happened that an operative agent of SOVA (the Slovenian Civil Intelligence Service) in charge of recording one of the key testimonies about Vic-Holmec affair returned from Parliament with empty tapes! The reason was a "technical mistake". The latest "technical mistake" seems like a reaction to the Prime Minister's letter in which Janez Drnovsek called the investigation of arms and money routes "counterproductive for the state". Incidentally, all government services are controlled by officials of his
party (Liberal Democrats - LDS).
However, it seems that Rudi Moge was not willing to accept Prime Minister's instructions; his persistent and stubborn efforts soon produced first results. The current Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission had a simple plan: "We shall slowly complete the circle. In the end we shall have only those at the top to whom the money was handed over." No wonder that
panic has spread among the arms dealers. As in every good mafia story, here too we know who were those "at the top" and how their subordinates ensured their security. Nevertheless, the fact remains - import and export licences and sale permits for "stocks" of arms were issued by the Slovenian Defence Ministry (from 1990 to 1993) with Janez Jansa in charge. Today Jansa claims that the documentation for the executed transactions was handed over to his successor. And his successor - Jelko Kacin - replies that he has never seen the mentioned documentation.
But let's start from the beginning - if the money from the sale of arms was really sent "up", then it is highly probable that Minister Jansa was
the last recipient. But, at least for the time being, there is no proof for that. The chain of proof was broken by the testimony of Anton Krkovic (a
former "Moris" member) who denied all charges of his VOMA colleague Peinkiher about taking money from him. That is why the "disappearance" of shorthand notes of Peinkiher's testimony is also important for Jansa since that would be the easiest way for him to repudiate the accusations of Anton Krkovic, who would then have a hard time trying to explain where was the
money which the witness explicitly said had been handed over to him personally.
Other, no less important documents are also missing. "This is chaos, a complete chaos! The Defence Ministry claims that it has no documentation
that could confirm the amount of money in question and the method in which the arms trade was carried out," complained Rudi Moge, Chairman in charge of the Parliamentary Commission, to journalists. It is clear that stakes
are high and that political games, which are intensified by pre-election
tensions, are behind all this. Although elections could be scheduled for
autumn, the confrontation between parties is gaining momentum; from quibbling over the new electoral system, integration of the Slovenian populists (the Podobnik brothers) with Lojze Peterle's Christian-Democrats, to the problem of having such united party running at the elections together with Jansa's Social-Democrats as a single right-wing coalition "The New Demos". This is reason enough for encouraging various scandals in two opposed camps.
Irrespective of the media's timing of scandals, the integral picture can be discerned in the mud of information and misinformation. With the assistance of Damjan Rezek (who prepared a report on arms trade for the Government back in 1994), Rudi Moge managed to determine how much oil had Slovenia received from Croatia as payment for sold arms.
The Government Commission interrogated the protagonists of this trade and collected as much as 18 folders of documents; cash transactions are still unclear, although Government Commission has determined who was in the VI
Department of the Defence Ministry in charge of suitcases packed with hard currency. Apart from the said Anton Krkovic, names of the first chief of
the Military Intelligence, Andrej Lovsin and his driver, Franc Cimerman,
who allegedly took the money by car to one of the Austrian banks in Celovec, were also mentioned. It is certain that the Defence Ministry used part of these funds to buy some equipment, primarily a dozen Austrian Puch field vehicles. However, the balance between used and sold military equipment and the realised profit is still enormous.
Janez Jansa claims that Slovenia has sold arms in the value of mere DEM 30 million to brotherly YU-republics, while some witnesses have testified that they had seen as much as DEM 40 million change hands in one single transaction. One thing is certain: at least 1,200 tons of arms were transported to Cazin Krajina from the Maribor Airport alone. Even the discovered records of Jansa's transfer of duties to his successor Jelko Kacin, are illogical. Special government's commission which also investigated the entire case, concluded that even documentation showed that there DEM 10 million were missing from the Ministry's treasury. On the basis of documents it could be assumed that the Ministry had used DEM 3 million to purchase field vehicles and bugging equipment which is now used by the Slovenian Military Intelligence. There is no trace of the remaining DEM 7 million.
In short, the hardest part of the job is ahead of the Commission; it is certain that some of the participants in arms trade will have to testify
once again. In addition to Anton Peinkiher, Anton Krkovic and Ludvik Zvonar, the list will most probably include Janez Jansa. The final outcome of this whole action is still highly uncertain. The international aspect of the story should not be forgotten either. The latest events in Parliament have shown that Janez Jansa and all others, who claimed that the Ministry was not selling arms and who accused those spreading such rumours (e.g. Robert Botter, at that time editor-in-chief of "Mladina") of being members of the Counter-Intelligence Service - had grossly lied.
These, as Plato would call them "useful lies" for the state were also uttered because such sale was in violation of the embargo on arms exports introduced by the UN Security Council for all republics of former Yugoslavia. That is why the Defence Ministry persistently claimed that "Slovenia is importing only ammunition and equipment necessary for its basic military training, since it does not have its own production capacities". However, information the Moge's Commission got hold of showed that between 1990 and 1993 Slovenia openly violated the third paragraph of the Resolution 713 adopted by the UN Security Council on October 25, 1991.
Namely, the Resolution stipulates that all countries members of the UN "in line with Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter and with the intention of establishing peace and stability in Yugoslavia should, without any delay, implement general and total embargo on exports of arms and military equipment to Yugoslavia which would remain in force until such time the Security Council decides otherwise". The Resolution was in force until 1996 for all republics of former Yugoslavia, including Slovenia. Slovenia justified the violation of the UN Resolution - same as every other "patriotic" smuggling in the territory of former Yugoslavia - with high moral arguments on the need to help the attacked states (Croatia and Bosnia&Herzegovina), which were "unjustly subjected to an illogical arms
Immediately after Hasan Cengic, high official of the Bosniac SDA, testified in Maribor, in 1995, Drnovsek's LDS, for example, organised a press conference entitled "The Maribor Arms Scandal Over". It also published a
statement in which it said that "Slovenia had helped B&H with arms and if by doing so, it violated the embargo, then no one can hold against it such a violation which benefited B&H". The investigation of Moge's Commission so many years later reveals that the real truth about brotherly "assistance" is quite different and that - at least as far as deals concluded by Janez Jansa are concerned - high ethics and rhetoric are masking the ugly reverse side of greed and ruthless amassing of wealth in the hands of individuals in the Slovenia's state apparatus at the expense of unfortunate hundreds of thousands of people, their until-yesterday fellow-citizens from former SFRY.