Fischer-Spassky 1992 sponsor extradited to Serbia

4/6/2010 – Last April the fugitive Serbian banker Jezdimir Vasiljevic was arrested in Holland for submitting false asylum documents. He was on the most wanted list in his country, accused of stealing more than $130 million in a Ponzi scheme. Some of this went to the 1992 rematch between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. On Friday Vasiljevic was extradited to Serbia, as the New York Times reports.

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The Fischer-Spassky Rematch in 1992

After winning the World Championship match against Boris Spassky in 1972 Bobby Fischer disappeared from public view for 20 years. In 1992 he returned to play a chess match with Boris Spassky in 1992. Fischer was 49 years old, Spassky was 55. The venue was the Yugoslav town of Sveti Stefan, an island resort just off the coast of Montenegro. The prize fund was US $5,000,000, of which the winner – the first player to win ten games – got 3.65 million. Victory went to Fischer. The match sponsor was Jezdimir Vasiljevic, President of Jugoskandic Bank, and a crony of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.


Promotional video with Vasiljevic shown at the time of the match

At the time a civil war was being waged in Bosnia, and Sveti Stefan was just 200 km from the besieged city of Sarajevo. The United Nations had imposed sanctions against Yugoslavia and the United States Treasury Department had warned Fischer not to play the match, threatening him with severe penalties for disobeying this order. On 1 September 1992 Fischer gave his first press conference in 20 years. When asked about his reaction to the threats by Washington, Fischer took out a letter from the Treasury Department and spat on it.


Original CNN news footage of the 1992 press conference in Yugoslavia shows Fischer spitting on the order from the U.S. Treasury Department warning him that he would be violating U.N sanctions if he played his match against Boris Spassky. The above frame shows Fischer in mid-spit.


Fischer in the 1992 press conference together with Vasiljevic...


... and during the match, which Fischer won +10, =15, –5

On 2 September 1992, an editorial in the New York Times said: "[It] reeks of callousness, not to mention disregard for international law. The match also violates President Bush's executive order forbidding Americans to do business in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav entrepreneur Jezdimir Vasiljevic is trying to recast the match as a charity event by pledging to donate $600,000 to refugee relief. This changes almost nothing. With its lucrative revenues from sponsor fees and television rights, and its purse of $5 million, the match is a business venture, pure and simple."

Vasiljevic charged with Ponzi scam, extradited to Belgrade

In April 2009 Jezdimir Vasiljevic was arrested in Holland for filing faked documents as an asylum seeker. The Serbian Ministry of Justice immediately requested his extradition to face trial on charges of embezzling more than $38 million and stealing about $130 million from investors in his bank, Yugoskandic, in a Ponzi scheme. His trial had started once before at a Belgrade court, but as it got under way, he jumped bail in 2007 and fled from Serbia.


Jezdimir Vasiljevic in 2010 [Photo by Blic.rs]

Earlier this year Vasiljevic, who is now 61, requested that he be deported from the Dutch prison to Ecuador and not Serbia. According to his lawyer he has Ecuadorian citizenship, having married and Ecuadorian national. Now the New York Times and other newspapers report that the fugitive banker was extradited to Serbia from the Netherlands on Friday.

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering returns other investments cannot guarantee, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going. The massive Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff stands as the largest financial investor fraud in history committed by a single person. Prosecutors estimate losses at Madoff's hand totalling $64.8 billion.


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