Serb tycoon indicted over privatization deal

BELGRADE Thu May 9, 2013 2:52pm EDT

Serbian police officers detain Miroslav Miskovic (R), a billionaire retail tycoon, in Belgrade December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Serbian police officers detain Miroslav Miskovic (R), a billionaire retail tycoon, in Belgrade December 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian retail tycoon Miroslav Miskovic was indicted on Thursday over a disputed privatization deal, the latest twist in the downfall of one the richest and most influential figures in the Balkan country for the past two decades.

Miskovic, 67, has been in detention since his arrest in December, part of what Serbia's government says is a drive to root out organized crime and corruption as the ex-Yugoslav republic tries to join the European Union.

Miskovic, his son Marko and seven other people were indicted by Serbia's organized crime prosecutor for abuse of office and tax evasion.

They are accused of siphoning off a total of 25 million euros ($32.74 million) from a privatized and now bankrupt road repair company.

"They illegally raised the value of shares of the Preduzece za Puteve Nis ... to sell them," prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic told reporters. "They also evaded tax on capital revenues."

If convicted, they face jail terms of up to 10 years.

Miskovic's Delta Holding has repeatedly denied the tycoon broke any law. The company employs more than 7,000 people in Serbia and the Balkans and had turnover of 1.42 billion euros in 2011.

Miskovic built his empire in a decade of war and sanctions during the bloody collapse of federal Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and flourished under the reformers who took power in Serbia with the overthrow of strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

The reformers were voted into opposition last year, months before Miskovic's arrest.

($1 = 0.7637 euros)

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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