KRIK: Kosovo Serb leaders and Kosovo foreign minister yachting together

Investigative website KRIK has published a photo taken two years ago on a yacht in Montenegro featuring the President of the Serbian List (the biggest Serbian party in Kosovo), Goran Rakic, Kosovo businessman and allegedly a powerful organized crime figure known to have a great influence in the party, Milan Radoicic and the current Foreign Minister of Kosovo, Behgjet Pacolli.

According to KRIK, the photo was taken at the time of the talks on forming the government, with Ramush Haradinaj at the helm. KRIK goes on to say that a meeting on a yacht took place in Budva in the summer of 2017 and that Pacolli left his former political partners shortly thereafter, joining the Ramush Haradinaj coalition and becoming the foreign minister.

The negotiations followed parliamentary elections in which no single party won the majority needed to form the government. The Serb List got three ministries in Haradinaj’s cabinet.  

The person who provided the yacht photo to KRIK said it captured a meeting that proved key to an eventual resolution of the gridlock. This claim proved impossible to confirm since none of the participants agreed to talk to reporters.

But just as the deadline approached — shortly after the meeting on the yacht, according to the source of the photo — Pacolli made a sudden political U-turn.

Leaving his own moderate allies behind, he led his party to join the PAN Coalition, a group known as the “war wing” because it included Albanian parties headed by former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commanders. This gave its leader, Ramush Haradinaj, the votes to form a government.

“Haradinaj did not have enough votes even with Serbian List, so [Pacolli’s party] came to the rescue,” said Agron Demi, a policy analyst at GAP, a Pristina think-tank. “His move was a surprise because during the election campaign he accused members of the coalition of threatening him.”

It’s not known whether the yacht meeting was instrumental in Pacolli’s sudden turn-around. But it’s noteworthy that Radoicic, the alleged criminal known as the “lord of North Kosovo,” had been present.

According to Rada Trajković, a local analyst and former Kosovo legislator, Radoicic is a key, if unofficial, decision-maker within the Serbian List.

Who is Behgjet Pacolli?

Pacolli, a 68-year-old Swiss citizen born in Kosovo, is a well-known figure both in his homeland and abroad. He is often described as Kosovo’s wealthiest man, with media outlets estimating his net worth at 900 million euro. Before entering politics in 2006, he had already made a name for himself as a construction magnate and one of the most prominent lobbyists for the recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

In the late ‘90s, Pacolli was involved in a major corruption scandal in Russia after his Swiss construction company, Mabetex, won lucrative contracts to renovate the Kremlin. Two years later, prosecutors opened an investigation into Pacolli, suspecting him of having bribed high-ranking Russian officials. In some reports, then-president Boris Yeltsin and his two daughters were mentioned as the recipients of the bribes.

He currently serves as Kosovo’s foreign minister.

Who is Milan Radoicic?

At the time of the 2017 elections, Radoicic did not hold any formal political position, but his authority in the underworld and his group’s violent means made him a go-to man.

Radoicic is the right-hand man of Zvonko Veselinovic, a notorious Serbian businessman from northern Kosovo who was described in Serbian police and intelligence reports obtained by KRIK as a leading organized crime figure.

According to these reports, his group was involved in various crimes, including the trafficking of drugs, arms, and oil in the north of Kosovo. Radoicic worked as a courier, carrying packages of drugs from Kosovar Albanian drug lords to Serbia.

Serbian law enforcement made several attempts to prosecute both Veselinovic and Radoicic but failed every time. Radoicic even went on trial for kidnapping but was eventually acquitted after the victim changed his testimony. He was sentenced only once for possession of fake documents.

The Serbian List — the Kosovo political party on which Veselinovic and Radoicic are known to have influence — was formed in 2014 and quickly grew to be the only player in the territory’s Serbian community.

Radoicic formalized his role in the Serbian List in June 2018, when he became the party’s vice president.

But he had been influential long before that. “The former mayors of Serbian towns in Kosovo complained to me that Radoicic was the one making all the decisions,” explained Trajkovic, the former Kosovo legislator.

“They told me he held informal office in the restaurant Gray in Kosovska Mitrovica, where he was giving orders who should do what. He picked the names of future Serbian ministers in Kosovo, chiefs of police in northern Kosovo, Serbian judges in Kosovo. And he was on a direct line with Haradinaj,” Trajkovic added.

Soon after assuming the leadership role on the Serbian List, Radoicic fled Kosovo after being sought by police on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of rival politician Oliver Ivanovic in January last year. After he disappeared, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

(N1, KRIK, OCCRP, 06.10.2019)



This post is also available in: Italiano

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