Ljubomir Magaš

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Ljubomir Magaš
Born 27 May 1948
Belgrade, FPR Yugoslavia
Died 10 November 1986 (aged 38)
Frankfurt, West Germany
Other names Ljuba Zemunac
Tomislav Spadijer
Duško Hudjec
Giovanni Angelis
Occupation gangster
Criminal charge
rape, murder, racketeering, armed robbery
Criminal status deceased

Ljubomir Magaš (27 May 1948 – 10 November 1986) was a Yugoslav amateur boxer, streetfighter and gangster. He was commonly known by his nickname Ljuba Zemunac (Ljuba from Zemun).

A three-time convicted rapist in Yugoslavia, Magaš rose to become the Yugoslav mafia crime boss and one of the most influential figures in Frankfurt underworld during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1986 he was murdered by rival gangster Goran Vuković.

Early life[edit]

Born to Croat father Šime Magaš from Nin, and Serb mother Rosa Ćurčić, Ljubomir spent his early youth in the Belgrade neighbourhood of Zemun. At the age of six, his father Šime left the family and essentially disappeared from Ljubomir's life. The kid stayed out of trouble for the most part while living in Zemun, but after his mother moved the family across town to Zvezdara neighborhood in his pre-teens, the youngster took up boxing at Radnički boxing club and also got involved with street-fighting. This is where he got his nickname Ljuba Zemunac (Ljuba from Zemun). After finishing primary school he attended a trade school for auto-repair, but never finished it. For a short time he also worked at the IMT tractors factory in Dobanovci.

In parallel, in addition to street fights, he got into all kinds of mischief such as threats and vandalism. The police become aware of him for the first time in 1964 due to a purse snatching incident.

Criminal career[edit]

1960s: Early days in Belgrade[edit]

More serious criminal activity was next to follow. For a robbery he committed in 1965, 17-year-old Magaš was sentenced by the Belgrade district court and referred to an institution for juvenile offenders. A year later he repeated the offence and got sentenced again, this time by the district court in the Serbian city of Niš.

Violent by nature, Magaš continued brawling in public. One such fight broke out in 1967 at University of Belgrade's Faculty of Technology during which Magaš brutally beat up Vladimir Vučković, a student at the faculty. Afraid of getting arrested, Magaš escaped abroad for the first time—crossing the border into Austria though quickly coming back. He quickly built a name in the underworld as a physically tough, vicious, aggressive, controlling, and vindictive criminal. Many feared him and sought his company as a seal of approval on the streets, but even that was no guarantee of protection as he was known to often turn on those close to him.

Not long after returning from Austria, in fall 1967, together with Rade "Ćenta" Ćaldović and Zoran "Robija" Milosavljević, 19-year-old Magaš raped a girl for which he got convicted to 2 years and 8 months in prison, a sentence he served in Sremska Mitrovica penitentiary. Ćenta and Robija got off due to lack of concrete evidence. During his prison stays Magaš would quickly establish himself as a leader among the prison pack, regularly harassing, abusing, and humiliating other inmates. The anecdotes such as the one about Magaš forcing his fellow inmates to chew over hardened bread so that he can make chess figures out of it are an example of his prison behaviour.[1]

When he was young, Magaš held pro-Yugoslav political leanings.

1970s: Moving to Italy and finding success in Germany[edit]

Magaš resumed his criminal activity after serving out his rape sentence and getting out in summer 1970.

In March 1971 he decided to escape to Italy together with an associate nicknamed Dača due to the arrest warrant over a car theft charge in Yugoslavia. Magaš's old buddy Ćenta came to Italy as well. Magaš settled in Milan, which was the gathering point of sorts for Yugoslav criminals on the run at the time. Due to his viciousness during armed robberies in Italy, Magaš quickly got the attention of Italian police, which immediately exiled him to Germany.

Arriving to Germany for the first time in the early 1970s, Magaš was far from a well-known criminal, however, his brute physical strength, bear-like appearance, psychotic energy, and thuggish ways quickly marked him out from the rest of the pack. He settled in Offenbach am Main, essentially a suburb of Frankfurt, where the Yugoslav mafia operated out of a cafe called Žurnal. They also frequented establishments in Frankfurt such as Jukebox Jumbo Jet cafe. At first Magaš worked as bouncer in bars and discos, however, using the alias Tomislav Spadijer, he soon managed to assemble a group of criminals specializing in armed robberies and racketeering. This was the beginning of his criminal heyday - through fear and intimidation he succeeded in stamping his authority and keeping together a group of associates that enabled him to secure a steady income stream through illegal activities. He also established yet another lucrative source of income by bringing young girls from Belgrade and other parts of Serbia over to Germany and forcing them into prostitution through casinos and brothels.

It didn't take long for the group to catch the eye of German police. In June 1974, Magaš got arrested for extortion, threats, and physical assault against a man who refused to pay the racket. Around this time Magaš became a wanted man in Yugoslavia on another rape charge and in September 1974 his extradition from Germany was sought by the Yugoslav federal Secretariat of Justice. German authorities took an unusually long time to respond to the extradition request, before eventually refusing it in December 1974, citing "unclear description of Magaš's offence", much to the shock of Yugoslav authorities. It was clear that for whatever reason Germans didn't want to hand him over on this occasion. Yugoslavs submitted another request while Magaš for his part managed to get arrested in Frankfurt again in May 1975 - this time for using falsified identification documents to the alias name Duško Hudjec, robbery, and driving without a licence. In September 1975 his extradition to Yugoslavia was approved.

Transporting Magaš back to Yugoslavia on 9 October 1975 in order to stand trial on rape charges became a security exercise. Eight German policemen transported tied-up Magaš from the airport building to the parked JAT Yugoslav Airlines plane where he got handed over to single Yugoslav policeman Toma Ristić. The trial at the Belgrade District Court concluded with Magaš being sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison, though he ended up serving only three before getting released.

Literally days after getting out of jail in fall 1978, Magaš went to Budva and committed yet another rape. He then fled back to Frankfurt where he lived under an alias Giovanni Angelis. Within weeks on 27 October 1978, Magaš was suspected of taking part in another crime - in Vienna's cafe Hautpnost in Fleischmarkt Street, he participated in the murder of Veljko Krivokapić aka Velja Crnogorac. Apparently, Velja Crnogorac had a row with Ćenta over gambling debts, which Ćenta decided to settle by killing Velja. He reportedly did this with the help from Magaš and Jusuf "Jusa" Bulić - the two held Velja back while Ćenta beat him to death with an unopened wine bottle.[2]

By now Magaš was the unofficial "godfather of Serbian organized crime". He enjoyed a seemingly untouchable status in Frankfurt, heading a well-organized criminal clan that specialized in extortion and racketeering, mostly targeting small businesses such as retail shops, cafes, and restaurants owned by Yugoslav gastarbeiters. While Magaš ruled Frankfurt, his childhood buddy Ćenta did the same in Stuttgart. Other well-known and established criminals from Yugoslavia such as Đorđe Božović aka Giška and Željko Ražnatović aka Arkan also made regular trips to Germany and kept in touch with Magaš, especially when interesting scores were being prepared and executed, however they couldn't put down roots in Frankfurt because Magaš was the undisputed leader there who ruled with an iron fist.

According to journalist sources, in the 1970s, Magaš started working with Yugoslav State Security (UDBA).[3]


The new decade started off badly for Magaš - in January 1980 an international warrant was issued for his arrest over the 1978 Budva rape charge. German authorities again arrested Magaš and handed him over on 20 February 1981; the Titograd district court sentenced him to 5 years in prison. He appealed the sentence and the Yugoslav Supreme Court ordered a re-trial. In October 1982 after serving 20 months he was granted bail. He ended up going back to Germany where he continued where he left off.

In 1983 Magaš along with a group of twenty individuals got arrested on extortion, blackmail, and armed robbery charges, however, German prosecutors experienced problems making the charges stick in court as no witnesses were willing to come forward and testify. The German authorities' patience with Magaš was wearing thin as he had been a nagging problem for them for more than a decade now. To this end, in order to more effectively deal with him, they were on the verge of proclaiming him a danger to German constitutional order, though in the end they stopped short of that, deciding instead to employ a "divide and conquer" tactic - propping up rival Yugoslav gangsters that present a challenge to Magaš's rule in Frankfurt.

Germans didn't have to look long and hard as an entire new generation of hungry and ambitious Yugoslav criminals came up in the meantime. One such criminal was Goran Vuković, at the time a small-time Belgrade hustler and thug in his early twenties - one of many Yugoslav youngsters who made regular trips to Ljuba Zemunac territory in Frankfurt hoping for a quick score. They all sought to ingratiate themselves with Magaš, thus trying to increase their standing on the underworld foodchain. Though in awe of the big boss Magaš, Vuković's idolizing soon turned into envy and open antagonism. Since the turf was long divided, for a newcomer like Vuković that meant being relegated to small-time scams on the Frankfurt main train station and working his way up. Not satisfied with what's given to him, he began doing scores on the side like hitting up a jewelry shop without Magaš's permission.

Magaš felt his authority being challenged and sought to teach the kid a lesson. In January 1985 a shootout occurred in which Magaš and his associates Slobodan "Cane" Savić and Vlada Bačar attempted to kill Vuković and his friend Boris Petkov. Vuković got wounded on this occasion from a bullet fired by Savić. German police arrested Magaš and the trial started in March 1986 with the persecutor asking for an eight-year sentence for Magaš and a nine-year one for Savić. In the end Savić got 2 and half years while Magaš got off free due to lack of evidence. Magaš used his power and influence around Yugoslav emigre circles in Frankfurt to obtain favourable witness testimonies and reportedly even got football coach Fahrudin Jusufi to provide him an alibi for his whereabouts on the night of the shooting.[4] All of this infuriated Vuković. The thought that killing Magaš is the only solution to his problems crystallized in Vuković's head and he decided to act.

On 10 November 1986, just before 10:30am, Magaš and Vuković, as well as their respective entourages, ran into one another in Frankfurt in front of the local court. After exchanging a few antagonistic words Vuković pulled out a gun and shot Magaš twice in the chest. Before the people from Magaš's entourage, namely the Šoškić brothers, could get at Vuković, the German police swarmed the scene and arrested Vuković. Magaš succumbed to his injuries couple of hours later.

See also[edit]