Montenegrin police spokesman Branko Bulatovic said that Momcilo Mandic, a former Republika Srpska (RS) justice minister, was apprehended at his apartment in the resort city of Budva on a warrant issued by the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Prosecutor’s Office.
Mandic, believed to be one of the richest Bosnian Serb businessmen, is said to have amassed his wealth from running petrol stations. According to Reuters, there are also suspicions that between 1996 and 1997 he embezzled millions of Bosnian marka from the RS customs authority.
Mandic also controlled Privredna Banka Srpsko Sarajevo, a small bank that was closed last November by High Representative Paddy Ashdown, due to financial irregularities.
“Mandic and his associates in and outside politics did everything they could to strip the bank’s assets and not pay its depositors, or its employees,” Ashdown said at the time.”There were also transactions that open up concerns that some funds may have been passed into war criminals’ hands,” he added.
In September 2003, the US administration blocked all of Mandic’s assets in the United States, also banning him from entering the country. His name is also on an EU blacklist.
Mandic is believed to be one of Karadzic’s key financiers. The former Bosnian Serb leader, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), has been on the run since 1997. International pressure on RS and Serbia-Montenegro to arrest him and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, increased ahead of last month’s 10th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
NATO’s commander in BiH, Brigadier General Stephen Schook, voiced confidence Wednesday that the steps taken in recent weeks would yield results soon, amid signs that an increasing number of Bosnian Serbs now believe Karadzic should be delivered to the ICTY.
“I am very optimistic that we hope we can conclude this chapter that is causing such delays in the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Reuters quoted Schook as saying at a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
BiH is seeking admission into NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, a key first step towards eventual membership in the Alliance. NATO has twice put on hold an invitation for BiH to join the programme, citing lack of full co-operation with the ICTY. It has made it clear that the country will not be eligible for PfP admission as long as indictees sought by The Hague-based court remain at large.