Balkan Primer (IX) - Slobo, Boris, & Behgjet

September 25, 1999

Comment: #322


Chris Bennett in Brussels and Laura Rozen in Pristina, "LIVING THE LIFE OF BEHGJET," IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 78, Institute for War and Peace Studies, September 24, 1999. Chris Bennett is author of Yugoslavia's Bloody Collapse (New York University Press, 1995) and is a senior editor with IWPR. Laura Rozen has been covering the Balkans for western media since 1996.

Now that the United States is settling into to the colonizing role once held by Austrio-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, it is time to dust off our Eric Ambler novels to prepare ourselves for some bizarre twists and turns as we plunge blindly into the Balkan night on the new Orient Express. The attached article gives us a hint of what we might be in for. It describes the shadowy life of Behgjet Pacolli, a humble native of Kosovo, who got his start as a protégé of Mahmut Bakalli, the former head of the Kosovo League of Communists, then rose to the heights by parlaying the disintegration of Soviet communism into construction contracts and great wealth, becoming in the process the world's richest Albanian, a pal of Boris Yeltsin, and a slight acquaintance of Slobodan Milosevic.

Rumors about Pacolli lie at the center of the bribery scandal now enveloping Boris Yeltsin and the money laundering operation through the Bank of New York. Although the Serbs killed his relatives and looted his estate in Kosovo, rumors also persist that Pacolli was in cahoots with Milosevic and remains close to Slobo's brother Borislav, Yugoslavia's ambassador to Moscow.

We will hear more about Pacolli as the World Bank, the IMF, the Albanian diaspora, the NGOs, and the American taxpayers shovel in money to rebuild Kosovo. Where the money goes after that remains an open question.

Chuck Spinney

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