Slobodan Milosevic: My part in his downfall. Part 2


                               BATTLE HQ: The luxurious Chateau Linza in Tirana

ROGER TAVENER cuts his losses and joins the Kosovo Liberation Army

What Did You Do In The War, Dad?

I became an honorary member of the KLA and joined the Mafia.
Also ate a lot of lobster.

We eventually land in Tirana, Albania, after my near-death experience in the Antonov.

There's some kind if war going on here which I don’t currently understand.

Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania etc. Load of Balkans if you ask me. Ethnic cleansing.

But there are lots of cute kid refugees in tented camps on TV. So the world cares. A bit.

Choppers flying everywhere, bombs exploding in the distance, hundreds of men in khaki — it’s like a scene out of Apocalypse Now.

I have only a suitcase and sat-phone. And nowhere to stay. There’s one decent hotel and CNN have block-booked it. Fuck me.

Tirana has just 350 yards of Tarmac leading from the airport. Once that runs out, the country’s one big pothole.

If you have ever had your Merc nicked, this is where it ended up and gets a million miles on the clock.

Traffic lights are dangling in mid-air. The metal has been stripped and sold for scrap. There’s only a couple of hours of electricity a day. No telephone lines , TV or radio. Not much food. And the water’s toxic.

The banks have shut down, stealing every investor’s cash.

I tell the taxi driver to take me to the best bar in town so I can work this one out.

There's always a girl. This one's a blue-eyed blonde and, no doubt, the prettiest in bloody Albania. She smells foreign correspondent cash. Ok. It’s a deal.

The rest are dark, gypsy-types, with cross-eyes. Pretty much every local is a bandit. That’s the culture.

Already dozens of journalists have been robbed and their 4x4s stolen. A couple got killed. The place is lawless.

She says she's a travel agent. I say I'm a Red Cross aid worker. Fair play. We’re both telling porkies. 

But she has her uses. And I’m homeless in a war-zone.

If I have enough money, she can get me into a hotel in the mountains. Cash for her and fifty US a night B and B. A bloody fortune here. 

I’ve got dollars secreted all over my body. No ATMs.

I fear I’m about to be abducted. But I have no alternative and she's my fixer...

Soon we are heading into the mountains in a ‘courtesy bus’. Jesus, in Tirana?

We arrive at Chateau Linza. Has my drink been spiked? I can’t believe this place.

It’s a marble palace with swimming pools, gyms, all day electricity, cable TV and a restaurant with decent beers and wine, steaks and lobster. And the most amazing views.

My room is a suite. 

Fuck me, direct dial phones...

I think you will be happy here, says Blondie.

We have dinner. Everybody is smart and well-dressed. If a little inbred. The staff speak good English. Pretty girls everywhere. This is more like it.

I’m OK because I’m a charity worker and I tip well. They are less likely to kill me if they think I’m going to keep handing over the readies.

Blondie gets her bung.

I do my check calls, review my life insurance, and we go back to the bar.

I notice a lot of faces I’ve seen on TV. From both sides of the conflict. Fuck me,  they’re staying here too. UN and NATO chiefs too. They love a freebie.

I’m covering the war from bed watching all the global TV channels.

I remember Ross Benson telling me to do wars from a five-star hotel. The great man would  approve of both girl and hotel. In that order.

Blondie's no fool. A couple of days in, she confirms kind of what I thought. I'm a pretty useless aid worker, so we fess up.

This is the Mafia's hotel. So it’s got the lot for its visiting brethren from Italy and Greece especially, but around the world too. So I have to be careful. The Dons want the best of everything. But they don’t want prying hacks.

As I eavesdrop, I hear conversations about arms deals. A lot of people make a lot of money out of wars.

She says I'll be safe if I meet the main men, shake hands and also “join” the KLA. The Kosovo Liberation Army.

I do a month and need to get back.

The Chateau only takes credit cards if I pay the 50 bucks per night one voucher at a time.

I’m down to just 600 dollars cash.

Blondie fixes me up with a private jet that flips me over the mountains to Athens.

Cost of “ticket”, no passport check, no questions. Six hundred green backs ... Unbelievable. Milked. But safe. That comes at a price.

So I get to Greece on the Mafia’s private jet. Cashless.

Athens seems almost sophisticated. ATMs. And they take cards...

So I board an Easyjet flight back to London for 25 quid.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre