by Drago HEDL
Ivan is the son of the distinguished physician Dr. Stanko Milic, until 1991 the chief of the Neurology Clinic of the Osijek Hospital. In Osijek, Stanko Milic had the reputation of an excellent and very professional physician. He stayed out of politics and refused to join any political parties, although some of them had approached him. However, in September 1991, the local daily newspaper Glas Slavonije published an article about a "Chetnik [derogatory term for Serbs] club at the Neurology Clinic". According to the article Dr. Stanko Milic was the leader of the club.
"The situation in the city was very dangerous and our Croat friends advised us to leave for a period of time," Ivan Milic says. He was at the time in San Remo [in Italy], visiting relatives on his mother's side; later, in early October, the whole family met in Belgrade; the plan was to stay there for a few days until the situation in Osijek improved. They left apartment keys to their neighbors, the Erceg family. All of their personal belongings remained in the apartment. After numerous break-ins, the Ercegs passed the keys to another neighbor, Srecko Lovrinovic, at the time the president of the Osijek Municipal Executive Council [city government], and later - after brief Vladimir Seks' tenure - president of the Osijek Crisis Staff.
Lovrinovic confirmed for Feral that there had been numerous break-ins in the Milics' apartment and that possessions had been taken out of the apartment. According to Lovrinovic, he tried to stop the break-ins but was ultimately unsuccessful. True, during the war in Osijek it was difficult to prevent looting.
"You can imagine a five-room apartment of a physician family and what was in it. We left behind all the furniture, antiques, paintings, a piano, at least four thousand books, most of them textbooks on medicine, valuable crystal glass vessels. There were also about two hundred expensive bottles of 12 year old whiskey, which I collected at the time," Dr. Ivan Milic says for Feral.
However, that brief departure became permanent. War raged in Osijek and a large part of Croatia, the Milics' apartment had been broken in, and then bodies of distinguished Osijek Serbs started showing up floating down the Drava River - with hands tied on the back and a bullet in the head. One of the victims was Milic's colleague Dr. Kutlic. The Milics were happy that they managed to save their lives. As a neurologist Dr. Stanko Milic did not have a hard time finding work. He found employment in Belgrade at the Institute for Diseases of the Brain and Vascular System; then he worked for two and a half years as en expert of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe. During his time in Harare he supervised three neurological clinics. Today he works in Podgorica as the head of the Neurology Clinic and a dean of the Medical School of the Podgorica University.
While the phone links with Osijek still functioned, the Milics found out that a week after their departure unidentified persons started carrying off possessions from their apartment.
"A lot was missing when in February 1992 I got a temporary permit to live in that apartment," Ivica Ces, at the time expelled from the village of Laslovo, says. "For example we found boxes with cooking pot lids, but the pots were gone. However, there were many books in the apartment. I packed them in a truck and drove them to the Osijek hospital. I have a document confirming that. The temporary permit to live in the apartment was signed by Petar Kljajic. I lived in the apartment for about a year and then someone placed a note on the door of the apartment stating that it had become the property of the Military Apartment Commission. They told me that I had to leave the apartment, since it was needed for a larger family. I got a temporary permit for a different apartment and moved out".
Once the seven member family left the apartment at 12 Radiceva Street, after a thorough remodeling of the apartment a three member family of the then president of the Osijek Municipal Executive Council Branimir Glavas moved into the apartment. He also obtained a temporary permit to live in the apartment from Petar Kljajic, the then president of the County Court in Osijek and head of the Military Apartment Commission. The permit was based on the Temporary Apartment Use Act from 1991. There is nothing wrong with the permit. However, the events that followed are more than interesting. Namely, article 8 of the Temporary Apartment Use Act specifies that "persons who are given a permit for temporary use of apartments, as well as their family members" in no way "obtain tenancy rights, nor can they earn tenancy rights for the apartment they temporarily occupy".
Therefore, Branimir Glavas moved into Dr. Milic's apartment, whose tenancy rights to that apartment go back 25 years (he was awarded the apartment at 12 Radiceva Street in the mid 70's from Osijek Hospital), with a permit for temporary use of the apartment which did not imply the possibility of earning tenancy rights for that apartment.
"Of course we wanted to buy the apartment once the legal conditions for that were created," Danka Milic, Dr. Milic's wife and a dentist said for Feral. "A commission had come to the apartment, classified it and we were waiting for their decision regarding the price. But then we had to leave".
However, Branimir Glavas was successful where the Milics failed. As Feral has already reported, in late December of 1993, nine months after obtaining the permit for temporary use of the apartment, in clear violation of the Temporary Apartment Use Act Glavas signed a contract number 3589 with the Fund for Transactions, Accommodations and City Services of the Osijek Municipality purchasing the apartment "for which he had tenancy rights". Obviously, Glavas did not have tenancy rights for the apartment he was temporarily using. Still he managed to buy it. The 154.95 square meters [roughly 1400 square feet] apartment was estimated at HRD 90,463,013.00 [Croatian dinars]. However, that sum was reduced by HRD 21,963,024, allegedly the amount Glavas had invested in remodeling the apartment, and by another 25 percent since the payment was made in foreign currency. Thus the purchase price came down to DEM 13,758.50 [roughly $7000]. However, ultimately Glavas paid even less.
In March 1998 the Osijek City Accommodations Department concluded an annex to the existing apartment purchase contract. Article 3 of that annex states that on December 12, 1997, the Defense Ministry "classified Glavas as a disabled Croatian war veteran with permanent 50 percentile disability". Consequently he was entitled to a "50 percent discount when purchasing an apartment". Article 5 of the annex states that Glavas is to be paid 38,291.38 Kunas - roughly about DEM 10,000 [$5000]. Since the original payment was DEM 13,752 Glavas paid a 155 meters square apartment about DEM 3,700 [roughly $1850].
Probably realizing that the transaction with Milic's apartment would not go undetected forever, on August 14, 1998 Glavas sold the apartment to Slavonska Bank. At the time he was serving on the Bank's oversight board. Glavas got an excellent price for the apartment - DEM 280,000 [$140,000]! Given that the true purchase price was about DEM 3700 Glavas made DEM 276,300 [$138,150] from the transaction! More than sufficient to buy another, larger apartment (208.42 meters square [1875 square feet], at a better location) and keep about DEM 76,000 [$38,000].
"Let Glavas pay us those 140,000 Euros he made from our apartment and, as far as I am concerned, that would be the end of the matter," says Dr. Ivan Milic. "Otherwise, we'll have to go to court. I have many acquaintances in banking circles and I am fully aware what a suit and media exposure would mean for Hypo Bank, the current owner of the apartment in which my family used to live. I am aware that banks do not like that sort of publicity. Let them sort that out with Glavas, since they bought from him an apartment that was not legally his property".
Slavonska Bank, now owned by Hypo Bank, confirmed that it owned the former apartment of the Milic family. Snezana Baric, a Bank representative stated for Feral that the Bank was using the apartment for its own needs and that she could not comment on the Bank's reaction to a potential suit. "If that happens, it would be up to the court to decide," she said.
If the case makes it to Strasbourg, it would not look good for Hypo Bank. The Milics have strong arguments. They did not violate Croatian laws in any way and were forced to leave Osijek to save their lives. Unsolved murders of about ten distinguished Serbs from Osijek, some of whom were physicians, prove that their temporary departure from Osijek was justified. Later the apartment was broken in to and we've already explained the rest of the story.
One of the main obstacles for Croatia's entry to NATO, as Defense Minister Zeljka Antunovic was told in her conversation with NATO secretary general George Robertson earlier this month, is the solution of the tenancy rights of Serb refugees. The European Union has made the same demands and Croatia is hoping to join the EU in 2007. It cannot be excluded that in resolving those cases Croatia will be forced to reach into the state budget in order to pay damages to the individuals who have lost their tenancy rights. And the fate of the Milic family apartment clearly demonstrates what happened with tenancy rights and how some individuals made a killing on those apartments.