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Troubles far from over for family of Milosevic

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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Slobodan Milosevic could be in good company if he is tried and sent to prison, as many Yugoslavs demand. His closest family members are also suspected of a list of crimes, ranging from assassination to profiting from the former strongman's 13-year rule.

Milosevic's wife Mirjana Markovic, son Marko and daughter Marija lived a life of ease up to early last month, when Milosevic conceded electoral defeat and stepped down after a pro-democracy uprising.

Now, he, his wife and daughter are already in a jail of sorts — under virtual house arrest in a guarded villa in Belgrade's upscale Dedinje district. Marko fled to Russia a day after the Oct. 5 uprising.

Milosevic is suspected of siphoning state funds to his and his associates' foreign bank accounts, as well as possible crimes committed against his foes, including ordering assassinations.

His wife is also suspected of ordering at least one assassination. The other family members are said to have profited in various ways from Milosevic's control over state instruments, including police and judiciary.

Milosevic "was the big, real boss of the whole Balkan mafia," said former senior Belgrade police chief Marko Nicovic, who quit in 1992 rather than follow his colleagues in giving blind loyalty to Milosevic.

Milosevic is likely to be the first to face justice. Zoran Djindjic, a key adviser to new Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica, said recently that Milosevic could go on trial "as soon as Serbian courts start working."

Most of the judges during Milosevic's era have been sacked, but replacing them is taking time.

Kostunica refuses to hand Milosevic over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal for alleged atrocities in Kosovo. But he supports general public opinion in Serbia that the former undisputed leader should stand trial at home.

Milosevic's wife, Markovic, could be in trouble on several fronts. She is rumored to have ordered the secret service assassination of at least one of her political foes, prominent publisher Slavko Curuvija, who was gunned down in Belgrade last year.

She could also be held responsible for the reported criminal activities of the Yugoslav Left. The Marxist party she founded was said to be heavily involved in extortion.

Son Marko, 28, shifted from a relatively harmless car fanatic and womanizer to a dealer in drugs, smuggled cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline.

Trade sanctions imposed in 1992 to punish Milosevic for fomenting Balkan wars gave Marko and other Serb smugglers huge opportunities to get rich. He paid no taxes for most of his shady business deals and could be linked to violent clashes with his business rivals and others, said police officials.

Marko was a co-owner of Bambiland, a 150-acre Disney-style theme park, estimated to be worth $325,000, the high-tech Madonna disco, an appliances store and a bakery, which he reportedly got by ordering out the previous owner at gunpoint.

Marko fled on forged documents, said police officials. That alone could result in two years in prison. He did so fearing mob revenge after his protected status ended with his father's ouster.

Daughter Marija, 36, ran her Belgrade-based Kosava television and radio station through huge donations by state-run firms, "which couldn't say no" to her mother's blackmailing demands, said the independent Glas daily.

Among the biggest Kosava "donors" was Beobanka — the bank reportedly responsible for syphoning millions of dollars to foreign bank accounts owned by Milosevic and his associates — and Jugopetrol, the state-run gasoline company.

Glas also reported that Marija has been trying sell off her station to another private media company, hoping to "legalize the investment which she got illegally."