Arkan 'gave nothing' to Hague prosecutors

BRUSSELS, Jan 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) Slain Serbian paramilitary leader Arkan made no contact with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague to offer testimony in return for a deal, chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte said on Monday.

"We have had no contact with Arkan. Arkan has given us nothing at all. We are inquiring into this case without any contribution from Arkan," she said in response to a question.

Del Ponte said the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was still awaiting official independent confirmation that Arkan, whose real name was Zeljko Raznatovic, was dead.

But asked about reported rumors in the Yugoslav capital that a double had been assassinated as part of a plot, the prosecutor said she was satisfied that he was indeed the man fatally wounded in a Belgrade hotel on Saturday.

A well-known Belgian lawyer, Pierre Chome, has said Arkan made contact with him in June to find out what would happen if he gave himself up to authorities in Belgium, where he escaped from prison in 1979.

A daughter of the murdered warlord and gang boss lives in Brussels. But his apparent bid to arrange a surrender and mitigation of sentence in return for his testimony and cooperation was aborted for unknown reasons.

Del Ponte, visiting European Commission President Romano Prodi, did not say whether the lawyer or Arkan's daughter would now be questioned to determine if he had deposited any statement for handover in the event of his death.

In an earlier statement, Del Ponte said the 1997 sealed indictment against Arkan for war crimes would remain secret in order to protect "other investigations involving persons who sponsored Arkan or who were otherwise linked to him."

But Del Ponte said his activities in Eastern Slavonia and northwestern Bosnia from 1991 to 1995 had been "thoroughly investigated."

According to then British Defense Secretary George Robertson the charges against him included the 1991 massacre of 250 wounded men taken from a Croatian hospital in Vukovar during Croatia's war for independence from Yugoslavia.

Some Serbs believe Arkan may have been murdered by professional killers on the orders of President Slobodan Milosevic, who is also under indictment for war crimes, or members of his ruling elite.

"I do regret, following the reported events of Saturday evening, that Arkan will not appear in The Hague to answer to the charges which had been brought against him," Del Ponte said. "I do remain, however, confident that other persons who shared responsibility with Arkan for his crimes will ultimately be brought to justice."

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