The second episode transcipt
According to the sources from Ministry of Internal affairs, Bulatović was killed at the time he decided to ban the long term practice of football match-fixing. Nevertheless, albeit many details of the murder were known to the police, the investigation, for some reason, still lags behind. Only several days before he was murdered, Branko Bulatović refused to register a football match due to an assumption it was fixed. The match in question was played by football club Sutjeska, led by Brana Mićunović, and OFK (youth football club) Belgrade, led by Zvezdan Terzić.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: At the time Arkan took over Obilić, we had a similar situation in Montenegro: Brano Mićunović took over Sutjeska. Brano Mićunović was in Montenegro what Arkan was in Serbia, that is, he was, he had the same reputation then. He still has the same reputation, today, for he’s still alive.
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and football referee: This is a tragedy for football and for this society as well, today anyone can do as pleased. Just imagine a situation where a football club leader appears totally powerless before football mafia.
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal in SUP Subotica: Just imagine five or six football club presidents, appearing with their five or six body guards- how much weapon they carry? And what for?
Is that really a sport?
Bodyguards, weapons, violence and arrogance became value symbols in football from the mid 1990’s. After the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Serbian-Montenegrin football was dominated by Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) and Partizan. So, lacking competition among the big four football clubs in the former Yugoslavia, the two Belgrade clubs with a long tradition competed against numerous smaller clubs from the periphery, taken over, or founded by people with criminal records, wars returnees, or then political strongmen.
At the same time, Brano Mićunović in Montenegro took over Sutjeska, while Radojica Božović, former Special Unit Operation member, took over Zeta. This was the time of formation of the so-called fraternal relationship between the Serbian and Montenegrin football clubs, lasting into the present. Together, they have worked out how the clubs controlled by strongmen could remain at the highest level of competition. They came up with the formula “three for three”, wherein the host always wins the match. At the same time, this has created a system of point accumulation where those who play draw at the end lose and fall out.
Football referees do not serve a purpose in such games. In Belgrade, football referees may well be smacked by new club owners while in Montenegro, they are at risk of having their heads forced into toilet bowl. Hence, due to fear or interest, many abide to the rules forced by strongmen, which foremost assume silence and passivity. The state does not take a step to resolve this matter. So, football matches are being fixed, while only football clubs without protection fall out from the first league. At the same time, football players playing in the clubs, which by match-fixings or threats remain in the first league, most often join the national team. This in turn enables to the clubs’ presidents even better earnings in sales of the players. The match-fixing of football matches hence has a much higher price than just having a good score or better placement.
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and football referee: During the time I was a referee in matches, I wasn’t at ease meeting these various people who in fact did not belong to football. Unfortunately, we were then like some kind of contraception, a “bypass” to some people involved in football, to those responsible for it, we were for single usage.
B92: And in what sense, what does it mean?
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and football referee: What does it mean? You send…That was the time when “three to three” was in effect- three points at home, three points ceded when you play at the host’s etc. Also, for instance, I was supposed to go from Subotica to Niš, to be a silent observer, on some matches, while the score was already known in advance.
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal in SUP Subotica: “Three to three” is a very simple formula: a team always wins at home, and loses when playing at the host’s and vice versa.
B92: And what is the role of a referee?
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal in SUP Subotica: That of a silent observer. A referee is mute in those situations. So, even if he perceives a team wants to lose on purpose, he cannot react.
B92: How come this public secret is passing through?
Dragomir Tanović, international football referee and inspector for industrial criminal in SUP Subotica: I don’t have an answer to the question. I can only imagine. Simply, the state institutions never dealt with the Football Association, police never filed reports, and they primarily work based on a report.
Football clubs are competing in every possible way to assure an entrance into the first league, even by violence, bribing of referees and mutual agreements about scores and wins. A good placement of a football team is important, among other things, because of great financial interests. Football players from the first league clubs have greater price in sale. Mladen Stojović, a sport journalist, emphasizes that in the mid 1990’s, football clubs from Serbia and Montenegro have established new match rules. At the moment when Željko Ražnatović Arkan took over Obilić, Brano Mićunović took over Sutjeska from Nikšić, while Zvezdan Terzić, current president of Serbian Football Association, took over OFK Belgrade.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: In Montenegro, even Brano Mićunović’s name provokes fear…So, they don’t like to…A pathological fear. Why? I don’t know. I could guess. He belongs to a certain generation, certain society, “tough guys”, as we used to call them in the beginning of the 1990’s, they left the country in the 1970’s, they were in the same generation with Giška, late Giška Božović and Arkan, he was a boxer once, a student at Novi Sad University…So, today he is an entrepreneur, engaged in some construction business…I don’t have very many information about him. I know he is a great fan of football and that he was for some five to six years a president of Sutjeska football club. In the past years, we were able to see only two photographs of him: one is from a trial, from court room, and the other one is when he was a boxer, squatting in shorts, with naked torso, just before a match, getting ready. So, very few people know how he looks like.
In October 2000, Brano Mićunović was accused of killing already wounded Radovan Kovačević, in front of several witnesses. The incident happened at the staircase of Podgorica Clinical center, when Mićunović fired gun and kiled Kovačević, who was being transported into the hospital. Prior to this, gunfight took place in the cafeteria of Podgorica Hotel, wherein Petko Pesukić from Cetinje was killed and Kovačević badly wounded. Branislav Mićunović was accused of gun murdering wounded Kovačević in front of the Clinical center. He was arrested, and after a trial lasting several months, the High Court in Podgorica released Mićunović, because a legal proof was lacking that the defendant committed a given crime. Namely, all the witnesses had withdrawn a statement, while even material evidence had disappeared from the court safe deposit. Hence, due to the lack of evidence, Mićunović was exonerated.
In December 2007, daily journals in Serbia released the information Mićunović has become a leader of the Serbian football mafia. He denied becoming so in Kurir, briefly stating: “They should be ashamed for putting me into this context. Shame! I have nothing to do with football mafia”. Branislav Brano Mićunović, until recently the owner of Sutjeska football club, is, according to police knowledge, in good terms with the members of the so-called “Maka” criminal gang. A document by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs obtained by Insider, regarding Branislav Mićunović, among other things reveals a connection among Mićunović and Ratko Butorović known as Bata Kan-Kan, owner of football club Vojvodina, Delić Ivan, and Željko Maksimović Maka. In the mid 1970’s, a number of individuals from Nikšić arrived in Novi Sad, wherein a part of the group had enrolled in university studies. At the end of 1980’s Branislav Mićunović returned to Montenegro, establishing a contact with businessmen and politicians. He started soon his own business, a profitable activity of casino owning in hotels at the Montenegro coastline. This has allowed Mićunović to acquire considerable wealth, to be used later through his friends in investments regarding sports clubs, hotels purchasing and entrepreneurships in Cyprus. Off the record, as stated in the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs document, Brano Mićunović is considered as a leader of Montenegro mafia, actively influencing personnel policies within certain companies and state institutions. It is also believed Brano Mićunović is responsible for several assassinations in Montenegro and Belgrade, by organizing a criminal group to perform felonies on his behalf. The same document states Željko Maksimović called Maka is in very good terms with Mićunović, who used to hide him in Montenegro for some time. Maka is known as a hired hit-man. He was on the international wanted criminals list after murdering a police officer on duty in 1995. He was released of the charge, states the document.
Members of the Maka criminal gang were accused but later released of charges for assassination of the police general Boško Buha. In the transcripts of their bugged phone conversations, there is a segment where they acknowledged murdering the former president of football club Železnik, Jusa Bulić. However, this assassination is still not solved. A son of Jusuf Bulić, Dragan Aca Bulić, current president of First League Association, reveals he had received numerous threats coming from Montenegro from the moment he publicly declared the match-fixing should be banned and order introduced into football competition.
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of First League Association: Well, I wasn’t harmed or anything, but many times I received warnings by police and State Security and various dispatches about some people coming to murder me because of that.
B92: The people from Montenegro gang?
Dragan Bulić: Yes!
B92: Do you know the names of those people, that is, does the police know their names?
Dragan Bulić: Well, believe me, almost everybody from the Montenegro mafia was here in Belgrade with a purpose to assassin me.
B92: And what happened then? This was all reported to the police?
Dragan Bulić: Yes. So, I got information from the police, the Service, from …
B92: And how come that no one was ever arrested for these attempted murders?
Dragan Bulić: Well, some were arrested for owning a false passport or something, no guns were found…So, even car plates were known…
B92: And all these because, due to football?
Dragan Bulić: Absolutely. Football and my father…So, I personally, as Aca Bulić, I never had a problem with anyone, I don’t even know them, in order to have a personal problem. Did I do something so to create a problem with them?
B92: Are you saying you had a problem mostly due to your father, I mean, because he was…
Dragan Bulić: It’s either I am a son of Jusa Bulić or because I fight for the Serbian thing in Serbian football.
B92: Does this mean, according to some of your information, that the people associated with the Montenegro gang are responsible for your father’s assassination?
Dragan Bulić: That is very possible.
Aca Bulić was elected president of First League Association in 2000. He claims he had a support by football officials albeit he was associated, mostly by journalists, in public with criminal. “That image about me is due to my father being what he was. I am not ashamed of my father, but that does not mean I am a criminal myself”, explains Bulić.
Dragan Bulić president of First League Association: Well, that is an interesting situation. I had an absolute support and people realized, through my work, through my club, that we can resist these things and that’s why they deferred to us. But before, as a rule, you were not dare to oppose the big guys, which my club did it anyway, so the smaller clubs started to awake…To be honest, in the beginning, when I came, Branko Bulatović also was against my presidential appointment, however, during the course of work…I think this is how we got close to each other, I’ve learned so many things from him. He was an extraordinary person, very smart. He did it his own way, the truth was I was very young and I approached him at that time and said: “Please, do not listen to others. I am a young man, and I want to learn. You will not have problems with me”. I approached him in a proper way, without…even though I saw fear in his eyes, that I was a guy who will, who did not fit into his conception. Nevertheless, in time, we developed an extremely well relationship and we cooperated successfully, especially so regarding championship, regularities etc…
Mladen Stojović, a long term sports journalist, claims it is a public secret that the Montenegrin and Serbian football clubs are in so-called fraternal relationship. According to the available statistics, it is obvious that Partizan did not have to worry when playing against Zeta, and also, at one time, Red Star didn’t have to worry when playing against Budućnost, a football club from Podgorica.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: Radojica Božović was often accompanying Partizan on international tournaments. He was a declared friend to the Partizan officials. Partisan was buying the players from Zeta. Also, for instance, if a player gets a transfer from Zeta to some other club, if he transfers to Partizan, and then Partizan sells him, a percentage goes to Zeta. Those contracts are made so that the percentage is not fixed by rules, but could also be a lot higher. I don’t know, during the transfer of Nenad Brnović from Zeta to Partizan, Zeta received a lot less money but it will also receive a greater percentage during the player’s next transfer. There was this established cooperation. Perhaps, the competitions were run in the similar way, there was a doubt about it, among other clubs as well, but this one was the most obvious at one moment in time between Sutjeska and OFK Belgrade, the same in between Partizan and Zeta. This means Partizan didn’t have to worry…A love towards Partizan by Golubovci was so strong that Partisan didn’t have to worry to accumulate points like Red Star always had to.
Rajo Božović was a top official of “Red Berettas”, a commander of “Tigers from Drina”, a formation stationed in Bajina Bašta during the war, the proximity allowing them to made frequent trips to Srebrenica and the surroundings on a daily basis. With Legija, he was also in Bihać. He is explicitly mentioned in the account of the protected witness B129, presented as a former associate to Željko Ražnatović Arkan, during the Miloševic trial. The protected witness stated that around 200 of Arkan’s “Tigers” participated in the operation “Banjaluka” in 1995, with a task to prevent the fall of the city since the army of Republic Srpska fled away. The commander of the operation, according to this witness, was a top official of State Security, Radojica Rajo Božović, who also had the Serb Volunteer Guard (SDG) under his command. In 1996, Radojica Božović took over Zeta, the same year in which Arkan took over Obilić. Under Božović leadership, football club Zeta achieved the greatest success in its history.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: Zeta is a fairly small football club from one of the Podgorica’s suburbs. Zeta is the current champion of Montenegro and has 10 points of advantage over others, maybe more, I wasn’t following the table in the past days. It is considered as a champion also in the second zone of football championship of the independent Montenegro. He is…he provokes fame when it comes to Zeta, the same fame associated with Arkan. Hence, a military discipline imposed within the club and weak resistance from the teams playing against Zeta.
At that time, the football match-fixing could be prevented only by Yugoslav Football Association, however, the match-fixings were approved and supported by the National Association, which according to the law, was suppose to control issues related to football, and to report every irregularity to the authorized institutions. That however, didn’t happen.
Jovan Dimitrijević, Association of Fist League: In the last ten to fifteen years, from the time we functioned as Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia or Serbia and Montenegro, all the championships were solved in Montenegro. Since the moment Red Star interests prevailed in Montenegro, that club also became a champion. The same happened with Partizan, it became a champion next year, with the football clubs from Montenegro getting points from the clubs from Serbia, and this is how the circle becomes completed, by the third and not by the direct player: I win three points today and tomorrow you win three points as well. So, this is the variant perhaps the most omnipresent in our football. So, this year Partizan wins all ten points in Montenegro playing at the hosts’, without much trouble or effort, but those same clubs Partizan had played against do not return the points to Partizan, but Partizan agrees a match with a club not directly connected with it, or connected, either way, but this is the way to complete the circle.
In practice, this means that the Serbian and Montenegrin football clubs made an agreement on how to play the game, how to always win while no one gets to lose any points. A win brings three points, draw score brings one point while a defeated team does not get any points. The formula “three for three” is made in such way so that the host club almost always wins, while when that same club plays away, it almost always loses. For the majority of football clubs, this system allowed a place in the middle of table, but also a higher chance to enter into the first league. This was at the same time also an opportunity for the players of the football clubs to enter the national team and so assure a better transfer price to some international football club. Foremost due to large financial interests, everybody was interested in achieving the best rank possible.
Dragisa Binić, former Red Star player: Usually, clubs look after their own interests, and club owners or their presidents, they make an agreement and usually it was for three points, or to return three points, this was very popular lately, two, three years ago…
B92: This was “three for three” formula?
Dragisa Binić, former Red Star player: Yes, ““three for three”.
B92: And what this really means?
Dragisa Binić, former Red Star player: Well, your club wins over the other at home, and that other, when playing at home, wins over your club.
Dragisa Binić, former Red Star player: And this leads to nowhere.
Zoran Arsić, former president of football club Vojvodina and football referee: We could have tried to run away from it, to get away from that influence and illegal actions, and you had a chance to see that some individuals tried to say: this year the championship is more regular, like more regular. Hence, they themselves admitted the championship is irregular.
After October 5th, many have tried to introduce changes within football organizations as well. However everybody had stayed at the same positions, changing eventually just a political option. That is, instead of giving support to Socialist party of Serbia and Milošević, football officials supported Democratic Opposition of Serbia, supporting thus status quo. During an attempt to replace Bulatović in 2000, it was easily visible how many criminals were there, from all sides involved.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: There were elections, I am unsure, but I think it was spring of 2000, and this team was headed by Montenegrin side by Duško Bjelica, he was Secretary General of Montenegro Football Association, and also a new presidential candidate for Yugoslav Football Association. The Serbian side was represented by Velibor Vasović, a legend of the Serbian football, running for new Secretary General. Football Association held press conferences at regular basis, at 1 o’clock pm, and every day Bato Bulatović used to inform journalists about some daily news and developments. One day, around quarter to one, we came into unbelievable situation: there was a group of young men with short hair, wearing speed-fire jackets in the Association. We soon learned that Velibor Vasović came with a crew to take over Football Association, while on the other side, from the office of Bata Bulatović, just next to this room where the conferences were held, we heard loud arguments between Bulatović and Vasović. In fact, we heard Bulatović yelling at Vasović, we could hear this: “The Association cannot be taken over just like that, you come and take it”. And this was the sign Bulatović was very confident, so he wasn’t afraid and then the opposition did not stand a chance to take over the Association, this was very interesting situation with a lot of intensity. In the hall of Branko Bulatović’s office, that is, office of Secretary General of Football Association, I saw a small posture man in suit sitting in the corner. He was observing us in silence. Later on, I found out this was “Bombona” (Candy) Đorđevic, godfather to Željko Ražnatović, probably the second leading man from this empire. Additionally I found Bombona came to guard Bato Bulatović.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: Bato told me, on one occasion, that he was in good terms with Arkan, whatever that meant. He described the conversation in this manner: Arkan called me and asked: Is it true you made such and such agreement? Yes, I said. He said: If Red Star and Partizan cease to fix matches, I swear on my nine children that Obilić will not fix a single match. I heard the same story from some other people, hence I believe this was how it happened.
B92: Do you know what “three for three” formula means? Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, it’s…,I don’t really know, to tell you the truth, I don’t know. That is, I am not interested in it. There are two issues in football as a sport, two issues that I’m disinterested in completely, which I am strongly against: doping and match-fixing, especially…These should not be associated with a collective sport at all. It’s like 11 of us are playing, and I’m letting something off, and the 10 have no clue and play like crazy, fighting, that’s criminal for me. Criminal should be punished strongly. Hence, the thing with “three for three” I don’t understand, the same as I don’t know much about betting places. I never bet hence I don’t know anything about it, I really don’t know, I just know that… B92: Well, but you know that football matches are being fixed in Serbia? Ivan Ćurković, Partizan football club president from 1989-2006: Well, I could only assume, I don’t know, but I could assume since many other things are being fixed in industry and health department and all spheres of life not controlled for enough.
In 2002, by changes in Criminal Law, a sports match-fixing became a felony. Article 255 envisages administration of prison term for match-fixing: “Any agreement about the outcome of sports or other competition, wherein an individual gains personal advantage or benefit for others, is punishable by administration of prison terms lasting up to three years. If the committed act, from the premise 1. of this article, gained benefit of more than 200.000 dinars to the individual involved, the individual will be administered a prison term lasting six months to five years. If the committed act, from the premise 1. of this article, gained benefit of more than 600.000 dinars to the individual involved, the individual will be administered a prison term lasting one to ten years”.
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and international football referee: The same thing happened in Vojvodina, a football mafia who did as pleased. The mafia arranged the league as pleased, those not in good terms with it, those who couldn’t assure three points fell out of the league. The former president of Vojvodina Football Association, Zoran Arsić reveals exclusively for Insider that the former president of football club Proleter Goran Gubić committed suicide in 2005 due to the match-fixings. According to Arsić, Gubić accumulated large financial debts because he was forced to pay to the Vojvodina’s football mafia three points in order to remain in the league. Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and international football referee:: This is a real tragedy: a man, the president of football club Proleter from Zrenjanin, had to put a gun over his forehead, had to write a suicide letter, had to drive outside of the city and had to kill himself. Did anybody from the people involved in football ever ask why?
B92: There is this information he wasn’t able to pay those… Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and international football referee:: Well, he couldn’t afford to remain in the league, he was asked to pay 70.000 German marks. He said he needed to borrow money with certain interest. He paid a huge interest. He put a mortgage, I think, to his own house and offices, which brought his family into financial disaster. So, in Vojvodina, there was this football mafia, I can say it now openly. I’ve been the president of Vojvodina Football Association for only thirty days. A man from Novi Sad was a coordinator of all those manipulations, he managed to stay in this position for many years, he managed to take a lot of money from various clubs. There were like three or four men who ruled Vojvodina at that time. I sincerely hope that a day will come when a public prosecutor, or organizations such as FIFA or UEFA, will react in order to establish sports inspectors or sports police, I would gladly say what I have heard, what I have talked about, names and surnames, who has to be arrested in the future.
B92: According to your opinion, who is in the sports mafia in Vojvodina?
Zoran Arsić, former president of Vojvodina Football Association and international football referee:: Well, to be clear, they are hiding for years since this system suits them well, you cannot prove anything here, whatever you try to prove, there’s not enough evidence. Even now, I am to say this or that name, that person could file a suit against me and claim there are no discriminating evidence. Right now, I don’t have video material, and no evidence, but I have spoken with a man who told me about another man from Banatski Dvor, a man from Novi Sad, Bečej, a man from Pančevo…their full names and surnames. Four names, I said enough, of the people who led football clubs, they are marked now, these are the people who threw out football club Proleter from the league at that time.
Arsić claims that Goran Gubić, in a written form, informed Zvezdan Terzić, president of Serbian Football Association, about these issues, and asked for help. Terzić refused to answer any questions for Insider show. Dragan Aca Bulić, however, reveals that everybody knows about the match-fixing. He claims he had tried, as a president of Fist league, to solve this issue; he says the practice of playing by the formula “three for three” was a frequent subject discussed at football association’s meetings. As an example, Bulić cites the football match played immediately after he had become a president, involving OFK Belgrade, led by Zvezdan Terzić against Obilić, whose president was Svetlana Ražnatović.
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of the First League Association: The stories you talk about have roots in the past- pay off debts etc. But, right in the beginning of my presidential term, maybe the first of second year, this mentioned match was played, afterwards we had a Board meeting where we discussed regularities and made an agreement to ban the practice, to cease “three for three” and match-fixing. We elected that day also a new selector, and we all, after the meeting went to see the match, which I personally suspect it was regular.
B92: And how did you come up with the conclusion? Is it true the presidents of the involved clubs told you, that you have found out from them, the match was fixed?
Dragan Aca Bulić: That’s true. I had a conversation just before the match, when I overheard something similar might happen, I called both presidents and asked them…
B92: Who did you call? At that time, …
Dragan Aca Bulić: Obilić and OFK Belgrade.
B92: Svetlana Ražnatović and …
Dragan Aca Bulić: Mr. Terzić.
Dragan Aca Bulić: And nothing, they both said “no problem”. However, the match was played the way it was played.
When Secretary General, Branko Bulatović, decided to cease with the practice, as an important Montenegrin official holding an important position in Yugoslav Football Association, he turned Montenegrin football clubs against himself. He was killed at that time, maybe as a coincidence, since the police investigation did not come with any official conclusions up until today.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: In the 2003-2004 season, things got stir up, there was a lot of exaggeration, many irregularities, situation got complicated, on fire in betting places, and then a match was played which provoked for the first time considerable attention from the public. Sutjeska played against OFK Belgrade in Nikšić. After this match, we had for the first time a reaction by football fans- for instance, they came down, to the football terrain, wrote slogans, and claimed a match was fixed.
B92: And that particular match, it was fixed?
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of the First League Association: I honestly think it was fixed. At that time I was already a president of the Association and had a correct relationship with OFK Belgrade, I didn’t know details, hence, I saw the same thing what people have seen on television. I ought to stand in front of journalists and say :”Yes, this was a regular match”…I haven’t…I mean, I went out to face the press, but I didn’t say it was a regular match, but tomorrow the match was registered by the result…I think this match and this issue caused a huge problem.
Mladen Stojović, a long term journalist of Danas and Vijesti: Things really got stir up, press was publishing on a daily basis, passions were high, it so became obvious something has to be done. In the meantime, other things have happened in football, the situation reached the turning point. These all came to an end with Bulatović’s murder, the murder should not be associated with this case, but the fact remains that afterwards no one ever mentioned the match played by Sutjeska and OFK Belgrade, after the commemoration and Bulatović’s funeral, a commissar for competition came and said the investigation about the match has ended with a conclusion it was a regular match.
The match by Sutjeska and OFK Belgrade was played on March 20th 2004, with a score 2:1, which was the twelfth time in a row that in between these two clubs a host won. Even the football fans of OFK Belgrade, during the match, out up a transparent “Regular, no way!”. The president of First league Association, Dragan Aco Bulić, at the press conference, stated the match played in Nikšić was not registered due to irregularities.
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of the First League Association: It appeared to me that mister Bulatović was taken back very much at that moment. The truth is that we were at that time, that we together, that he accepted me and supported my fight for regularities, they have turned some, how would I say…They turned away from the prevailing past attitude, they accepted my opinion, and he really fought with me to make things right regarding football, regularities, against the match-fixing, to ban “three for three’…I think he was hurt by that match like I was too, and everybody else…I also think this came in between Bulatović and some of his friends, and that’s the reason for this problem… I am sure he was at that time on the right side.
B92: His friend at that time was the owner of Sutjeska, Brano Mićunović…I assume you mean this?
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of First League Association: I don’t imply directly to that man, I imply on series of…I don’t believe he is the only one involved, it’s probably all of their…
“Football matches are being fixed in Italy and in Spain, but nowhere in this provincial manner as in here”, said Branko Bulatović in regards to initiative to start the investigation about the first league match between Sutjeska and OFK Belgrade. Several days after this statement, he was murdered.
Bulatović was killed by gunfire, around 10.30 AM, on the staircase in front of elevator of the building in 35 Terazije Street, a center office of Football Association of Serbia and Montenegro. Anonymous young man approached the victim and fired shots from the near proximity right into the victim’s nape of the neck, put the gun into his purse, ordered calmly to the cleaning lady, who by chance happened to be at the spot, to shut-up and walked into underground passage. First ones to help the wounded Bulatović were a carrier of the Football association Dušan Gelić, Ilija Petković, a selector of the football national team and Pera Pešić, a secretary of the professional stuff. They called ambulance right away, which transferred Bulatović to ER. He died after reanimation and operation at 23.10 PM the same day.
Lenard Johanson, who was UEFA president for 17 years until 2007, in an exclusive interview for Insider says the state has to function more efficiently in order to eradicate football mafia. UEFA, according to Johanson, was sincerely concerned when Bulatović was murdered.
Lenard Johanson, UEFA president 1990-2007: I met him earlier, I even met his son, and this was a tragic situation, ending like this, but afterwards what happened, you know better than I do, for this is the matter for your government, your football association, your police, to resolve this matter. UEFA was very upset, caught up, but I have to repeat this again, we cannot get involved unless someone from your side ask us to do so.
Dejan Savićević, Montenegro Football Association president, claimed he had perhaps played one fixed match wearing a dress of a football club Budućnost, while at present, half of the matches are fixed. He didn’t want to go into details. “I don’t want to end like Bata Bulatović”, said Savićević. It was announced he will be called to Yugoslav Football association to provide the details in order to initiate investigation but nothing has happened regarding this matter.
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of First League Association: Besides the assassination of my own father and all other murders, as I said, in Belgrade and Serbia, I was hurt the most personally by the loss of Branko Bulatović. It’s because he did turn and supported the Serbian side, and decided to ban those irregular activities and unprofessional attitude towards football in Serbia at that time. And the direct question is…
B92: Well, did that cause his assassination?
Dragan Aca Bulić: Well, there are stories and indications…I cannot say this is so, since I’m not sure, there are considerable indications pointing out this is so, however, there are other stories regarding issues about him that I don’t know personally, that’s why I cannot confirm.
B92: You were among those interrogated regarding this murder. Why?
Dragan Aca Bulić: Several times.
B92: What were you questioned about?
Dragan Aca Bulić: Did I directly participate, organize, what I know about the case etc. I think I underwent a detector like five or six times.
B92: Because of this murder?
Dragan Aca Bulić, president of the First League Association: Yes.
At that time, Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs stated the murder of the former Secretary General of Football Association, Branko Bulatović, was a very difficult case, organized obviously by a good orderly and powerful group. They promised an expressed investigation, a photo-robot was made, and investigation started, which still has not ended. Despite interrogation, according to Ministry of Internal Affairs, of several hundred witnesses, no one was arrested and there are no suspects. Interestingly, Football Association did not pressure or request for urgent actions regarding these cases. The Police, however, knew since 2004 that the murder of Branko Bulatović was contracted by someone from Montenegro. Even though a person was identified and brought to Belgrade due to this matter, there are no official suspects.
After the murder of Branko Bulatović, the public wrangled with his alleged connection with the people from Obilić. There were claims Bulatović was an adviser to Obilić in matter on how to illegally sell the players while some other people claimed that thanks to Bulatović’s help, the police came to evidence against Svetlana Ražnatović. As a reminder, Svetlana Ražnatović was arrested during “Saber operation” due to allegations she collaborated with Legija and the Zemin gang; she was however accused for illegal gains in transfers of the Obilić football players. Svetlana Ražnatović was arrested based on criminal charge filed in 2001 by the then Football club Obilić’s president, Žarko Nikolić. After Arkan was killed, Nikolić banned the players transfers unless the money transfer went through Komercijalna bank, into the club’s account. Namely, Football Association provides a certificate necessary for a transfer-sale to takes place, so Žarko Nikolić had asked from Branko Bulatović to ban the players transfer-sale, since according to Nikolić, Svetlana Ražnatović was, at that time, selling the players wherein the money went into her private account. By doing so, she damaged both the club and the state.
Žarko Nikolić, former president of football club Obilić: She continued to sell the players. They didn’t care, since Pelević, Legija, the Zemun gang etc. were around. And then I, since they were doing so, then I immediately…this was after two weeks…When they didn’t react, they didn’t call for an assembly meeting but continued to sell the players…I wrote to Yugoslav Football Association, that’s how Football Association was called then. The note said something like this: “Dear Secretary General, with this letter I want to inform you about the situation in football club Obilić, please do not provide certificates to Obilić players who are supposed to be transferred to international football clubs to play, and they are: Lazetić, Šarac, Kovačević and Zorić…”. This has caused a major stir up, Bulatović was in Madrid at that time, he came back immediately, the next morning he was in Belgrade for this was filed with Football Association, it was a document which…Due to some document like this one was, he was later killed.
Football Association Secretary General Branko Bulatović discovered, during operation “Saber”, that the police was not interested only in Obilić but also in several first league football clubs, hence Bulatović had become, for many, an unwanted witness. He was Football Association Secretary General for full eleven years, until he was murdered in 2004.