JUGOSLAVIA REPLACED BY MAFIOSLAVIA
After break up of Yugoslavia, Croatia like Serbia and Albania tried hard to persuade others and itself that it is not a part of the "dodgy" Balkan ways - but a series brutal murders proved it was still closer to how it regards Middle East than to Vienna.
With four gangland-style killings in October, Croatia's powerful - and previously largely negated - underworld flexed its muscle and sent the authorities into panic.
Ivana Hodak, 26, beautiful celebrity daughter of a socialite lawyer defending powerful clients with lots of enemies, was slain in broad daylight in central Zagreb.
A professional hitman coolly walked off after delivering the fatal shots to her head and neck - all this in broad daylight and not even 100 metres from the main police station.
On October 23, a bomb killed Ivo Pukanic, an influential journalist and publisher with friends in the elite as much as the underworld - though nowadays the two worlds are not necessarily separated. A close friend died alongside him like collateral damage.
Afterthese killings, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader addmited there is mafia in his country.
Following the Pukanic killings, Sanader made empty promises: "Zagreb will not become Beirut ... I want to state clearly - nobody from the criminal milieu will be able to sleep calmly.
"It is us or them. This is terrorism," President Stjepan Mesic said after Pukanic was killed, who was his personal friend.
But that very day, another mafia murder - that time of a less-known member of the Zagreb jet-set and a shadowy businessman, was found parked in his jeep and with a bullet in his head.
Although the motive of the Pukanic and other killings has not yet been determined clearly, police has uncovered am extended business of "Murder-on demand".
"We could describe that as 'Murders Incorporated," an unidentified high-ranking state security official told the Jutarnji List daily. "You order a murder and they do it, regardless of who the target is.
The Mafioslavia is believed to involve the entire Balkans region including Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and beyond, and involve other criminal activities such as the heroin trade, according to police.
And Croats finally had to accept that the tentacles of organized crime penetrated their own society just as well as other countries in the region for whom so called national borders are non-existent.
Those tentacles date from Croatia's so called 1991-95 "independence war". The state - then under an arms embargo - turned to black marketeers and criminals to help it smuggle weapons for the fledgling army, in a multi-billion dollar business.
Many of the newly rich, their fortune expanded through trafficking of drugs, cigarettes, people and anything else on top of weapons, were also given a badge of social acceptance for their services under the banner of Croatian nationalism.
A decade-and-a-half later, criminals have emerged as businessmen with millions laundered through construction, sports and even fine art collections.
With a foe that rich, ruthless and legally clean, the state is virtually helpless, even state prosecutor Mladen Bajic admitted in confidential report to Sanader and Mesic that was leaked on October 19.
Following its initial accumulation of wealth, organized crime "permeated all pores of Croatian society," Bajic warned. "Mobsters with political connections became respectable businessmen.
Jugoslavia became MAFIOSLAVIA....
Zagreb ain't Vienna...