BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- A court Tusday indicted former officials involved in Yugoslavia's biggest financial scandal under Communist rule, but the key defendants pleaded innocent to charges of 'undermining the country's system.'
'I am innocent and I cannot see why I was put on trial,' said Fikret Abdic, 48, former General Manager of the state-owned Agrokomerc food-processing firm that issued unbacked promissory notes worth about $1 billion.
Abdic and Hakija Pozderic, 70, an ex-Communist Party official and brother of Yugoslavia's former vice president, were charged Tuesday with masterminding a scheme that turned the Agrokomerc firm of Velika Kladusa from a village cooperative with 17 workers in 1967 to a giant plant with 13,500 employees last year.
The two men and their aides allegedly pressured local banks, inspectors, police and courts into turning a blind eye to the unbacked promissory notes.
The Agrokomerc scandal shed light on the heavy influence of national and local political leaders on financial transactions of local firms, banks, inspectors, police and courts.
Abdic and Pozderic were among 25 defendants on trial at the Bihac Great Court in the Bosnian republic, central Yugoslavia.
Tuesday, prosecutors read indictments for two hours, charging the defendants with 'counter-revolutionary and economic undermining of the country's system.'
The charge, if proven, carries punishments ranging from a 10-year jail sentence to the death penalty.
The biggest financial fraud since the Communists came to power at the end of World War II had forced Yugoslav Vice President Hamdija Pozderac, 64, to resign in September 1987 soon after the scandal broke into the open.