Serbian folk diva faces embezzlement charges

Published Nov. 23, 2010 4:41 p.m. ET

Serbian folk music star Svetlana Raznatovic has been accused by state prosecutors of embezzling ?2.2 million ($3 million) from the lucrative sale of players from a football team left to her by her notorious warlord husband.

The prosecutors' office said Tuesday that the Balkan country's most popular singer, known as Ceca, also faces charges of illegal possession of firearms at her Belgrade home.

No formal charges have yet been filed after a seven-year investigation, prosecutors said. If charged and convicted, Raznatovic could face up to 12 years in jail.

Raznatovic was married to Serb warlord Zeljko Raznatovic, whose troops killed and pillaged homes of non-Serbs in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, was gunned down in a Belgrade hotel in 2000, but Ceca allegedly maintained his connections with Serbia's numerous crime bosses, drug traffickers and paramilitary leaders.

Ceca was arrested and briefly jailed in 2003 in connection with the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Police found a huge cache of weapons in her home in the upscale Belgrade Dedinje district.

The prosecutors said she illegally profited from the sale of seven FK Obilic Belgrade players to foreign clubs between 2000 and 2003. The most high profile was Nikola Lazetic, who played for Turkey's Fenerbahce, Torino and Siena in Italy's Serie A, and Red Star Belgrade.

During the criminal investigation, Ceca has claimed that most of the transfers were arranged in advance by her late husband. She has also said that the hand guns and bullets discovered in her house in 2003 belonged to Zeljko Raznatovic.


Belgrade media said she has so far evaded legal prosecution thanks to support from current and former Serbian political leaders who consider her an untouchable figure because of her huge popularity, not only in Serbia but the rest of the former Yugoslavia.