* Miskovic one of most powerful, richest people in Serbia
* Big presence in retail, agribusiness, real estate sectors
* Ruling coalition says fighting organised crime, corruption
By Matt Robinson
BELGRADE, Dec 3 Billionaire retail tycoon
Miroslav Miskovic, one of Serbia's most influential figures, was
questioned by police on Monday as part of what the nationalist
government says is a drive to root out graft, a key condition
for joining the European Union.
Miskovic is among the richest people in Serbia, with an
empire - Delta Holding - first created under late strongman
Slobodan Milosevic and expanded after his ouster in 2000.
Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic said Miskovic was to be
questioned, among other things, about his real estate business.
Western diplomats are concerned Serbia's leaders are
motivated more by political score-settling than genuine reform.
Delta, which has interests in retail, agribusiness, real
estate and insurance in Serbia and the region, has denied any
wrongdoing and said last week that Miskovic would respond to the
police summons "in line with his civic duty".
Miskovic arrived at the Interior Ministry without a lawyer
and was questioned for four hours, but made no comment to a
scrum of waiting journalists.
The ruling alliance of nationalists and socialists, who last
held power together at the tail end of Milosevic's 13-year rule,
says it is committed to rooting out the organised crime and
graft that has flourished in Serbia over the past two decades.
"I'm sceptical this (investigation into Miskovic) will bring
any kind of real result," said political analyst Petar Lazic,
describing Miskovic as "too powerful" and politically
"This looks more like classic demagogery, a witchhunt to
score political points," he said.
The anti-graft campaign is led by Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's
deputy prime minister and defence minister who, as a former
member of the virulently anti-Western Radical Party served as
Minister of Information when Milosevic took Serbia to war with
NATO over Kosovo in 1999.
He returned to power this year with the nationalist Serbian
Progressive Party, replacing the liberal Democratic Party that
had ruled since 2000. Vucic now advocates EU accession.
The EU called on the country last year to probe
irregularities in the privatisation of 24 state companies since
Milosevic was toppled.
Miskovic served briefly as Serbian deputy prime minister
under Milosevic in 1990 as Yugoslavia began its slide into war.
He dealt in business and banking during the 1990s, when
Serbia was under sanctions for its role in conflicts in Bosnia
and Croatia, and then expanded his empire under the Democrats.
His Delta Sport is the exclusive distributor of Nike for
much of the former Yugoslavia and a franchise partner of Costa
Coffee. Delta Holding employs 7,200 people and turned over 1.42
billion euros ($1.85 billion) last year, its website says.
With Vucic publicly taking aim at Miskovic, the tycoon
announced last month he had given up his controlling stake in
the Serbian daily Press, saying he wanted to contribute to the
government's policy of greater media transparency.