Who is responsible? The action which, besides helicopters and a large number of armored troop carriers and other heavy military equipment, allegedly included special forces of the British Army SAS (tested, among other, during the conflict in Northern Ireland) totally devastated the premises of the bank and took away a large amount of documentation, which is supposed to assist the temporary administrator Toby Robinson in establishing the full control over the bank's activities and, as was officially stated, "protecting interests of the bank's legitimate customers".
Let us remind the readers that, even though even the federation deputy prime minister and minister of finances, Nikola Grabovac, stated that regarding the payments to the federation budget the Federation government has cooperated well with the Hercegovacka Bank, and in spite of findings of the Banking Agency of the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, which has during its audit of the Bank's finances hasn't found anything illegal or improper, as is well known, the Hercegovacka Bank was two weeks ago by force placed under new administration.
After public protests on April 6 because of the manner in which the members of SFOR, OPTF, MSU, the Federation Police and the OHR tried to impose that new administration, representatives of Petritsch's office have on several occasions tried to contact the management of the Hercegovacka Bank asking for their cooperation. Dismissed director Ivica Karlovic and the president of the shareholders' council Jozo Maric, supported by the trade union of the bank employees, refused to assist the work of according to them illegally imposed temporary administrator demanding that the questionable Petritsch's decision about the imposition of the temporary administrator be withdrawn as a precondition for any discussions. "After the events of April 6 we simply were not able to take any responsibility or obligations regarding our customers or the events in the bank. Petritsch's decision is a crime against the banking system, but according to that decision we have been suspended and Robinson is responsible for everything," explained Milan Sutalo, also the formally suspended spokesperson of the Hercegovacka Bank.
Robinson and the Office of the High Representative "took everything in their own hands" in a very rough, above described manner. They employed SFOR's weaponry and soldiers, thereby giving it a chance to avenge the humiliation from two weeks earlier when, according to the media in Mostar, SFOR had been defeated by eggs! This time, obviously, SFOR decided to use disproportional force, especially as far as the breaking of the bank safe is concerned, as explosives were used for that although, according to spokesperson Sutalo codes and keys that were necessary to open the safe had been taken in the first action. OHR officials caused additional confusion by claiming that no money was found in the safe and that in the meantime, i.e. after the first action a significant amount of cash had been taken from it. TV cameras showed remnants of bank notes that were damaged during the opening of the safe, and Milan Sutalo is adamant that nothing had been removed from either of the two safes after April 6.
According to Sutalo, before the decision about the imposition of a temporary administrator there had been $630,00 and $750,000, in the two safes, respectively. The cash was in Convertible Marks (KM) and foreign currencies exchanged by the Hercegovacka Bank.
Catrastrophic effect on economy The goal of that action was only partly to investigate suspicions about alleged illegal transfer of money and suspicious ownership structure. Namely, there were other mechanisms for carrying out an inspection of a bank, prescribed by law. The real reason for the imposition of temporary administrator Toby Robinson was to block the attempt to establish an autonomous financial system in Hercegovina that could be used as a service for the institutions of the recently established Croatian autonomy. However, the action produced extremely negative effects on the life of ordinary people.
"Before the action in the Hercegovacka Bank this part of the country was, for example, about 30 percent more developed than the rest of the country. After the difficulties facing the economy because of the blockade of accounts of about 4,500 customers and about 90,000 so-called individual holders of small savings accounts, the aforementioned advantage could melt away in no time. When at some point the results are assessed it will be seen that the action in the Hercegovacka Bank had a catastrophic effect on the local economy," claims one of leading Croatian economists.
"Our revenues are down 90 percent. People simply do not have cash. Numerous employees have stopped receiving salaries so that goods move slowly from the stores and their owners do not need new deliveries from us," complains the representative of one of leading companies in Croatia active in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Pressure on autonomy In any case, as we pointed out, the most recent action cannot be viewed outside wider political context. It is obvious the most recent pressure on the leading people of the Croatian autonomy before the expiration of the 60-day deadline and the official declaration of the autonomy. The pressure on the economy is supposed to weaken the support of the wealthiest individuals in Hercegovina for the autonomy, as well as morale of the ordinary people regarding their support for the decisions of the Croatian National Assembly.
Moreover, despite publicly proclaimed unity, cracks within the international community regarding the solution of the Croatian question in Bosnia-Hercegovina are increasingly visible. It seems that Americans are increasingly inclined to pass this "hot potato" to their European allies, and many in the international community would like to let the Alliance deal with this issue with as little meddling from outside as possible.
Regarding the future moves of the leaders of the Croatian autonomy, it is clear that repressive actions are weakening the position of those factors who are considered to be moderate and who wanted to seek points for dialog. Until a few days ago even the most prominent leaders of the HDZ were saying that there was a possibility of return to the state institutions and work in the House of Nations, Constitutional commissions and similar bodies. For now those voices have quieted down. A lot will depend on whether, after the end of the two-month deadline during which negotiations were supposed to start, there will be a formal declaration of the autonomy. "That is a decision which is not of personal nature. It must be made by the highest authorities in political, religious and cultural life," claims a source from within the Coordination Council of the autonomy.