Published in Nacional number 324, 2002-01-29

Autor: Milivoj Đilas

Panic in the homosexual high society

Murdered Davor Ivančić provided male prostitutes for Croatian politicans and the diplomatic core

The killer of Davor Ivančić, a homosexual pimp who was stabbed to death in his apartment, has been arrested. However, the panic on the homosexual scene still has not been calmed. Many of his clients, who otherwise live calm civil lives with their wives and children, fear that the police will reveal their identities

One and a half months after the murder of Davor Ivančić (31), who organized male prostitution, the police have found the killer: Josip Vrbanić. Vrbanić, a 23 year old unemployed bricklayer from the village Kozarica, beat and stabbed Ivančić to death in his apartment on Pavla Hatza Street in Zagreb. According to Vrbanić’s confession, he murdered Ivančić after an argument concerning the “nature of the business”, and after Ivančić demanded that Vrbanić “satisfy him orally”, as he had satisfied a customer just prior. The police are keeping the identity of that customer in the strictest of confidence. In addition to the killer, the police have revealed much more about this case – a wide reaching web of male prostitution, which offers services even to individuals of the high layers of Croatian society. Since this particular murder, which took place on December 17, 2001, the police have questioned over 200 friends and acquaintances of the victim, the majority of which belong to Zagreb’s gay scene. However, several members of the Croatian show business scene have also been questioned, as well as members of the accredited diplomatic core, representatives of various international organizations, former journalists and those belonging to the jet set, who knew either Davor Ivančić and used his services, or knew those who worked for him. According to the Zagreb Chief of Police, Žarko Peša, all of the findings of the investigation are confidential, and will remain so, likely forever: in order to protect the identity of those questions and to protect their private lives which were kept hidden far from the public eye.

Small town boy Ivančić's storz reveals a small town boy who came to the big city to become successful at any price, not even stopping short at prostitutionThe direct motive for Ivančić’s murder is connected to his long time secret male prostitution business, both as an organizer and in offering services himself. Ivančić was found dead in an apartment he had been renting for four years, which he had kept exceptionally neat, and which was covered in the victim’s blood. He had been stabbed in the chest, back and arms, and the main artery in his neck had been punctured by one of the many blows of the knife. The police denied that Ivančić had had sexual relations prior to the murder, as they denied the claims that the victim had been beheaded.

The Davor Ivančić story is actually the success story of a young boy who moved to the city to make it big, regardless of the price of that success, even prostitution. Born in 1970, Ivančić was born and raised in Borovo Naselje near Vukovar. When the war broke out and he could no longer remain in Borovo Naselje, the Ivančić family fled to the Island of Hvar, and until 1993, Davor was registered as a war refugee in Jelsa. His mother Mara and father Franjo still live on Hvar today, where Davor would visit them during the summer.

Heavy drug use

Upon arriving in Zagreb, Davor Ivančić got a job in the company Magma, owned by today’s Economy Minister Goranko Fižulić. Later on, he was hired at Europapress Holding, at that time a much smaller media company than it is today. Ivančić worked in EPH promotions, and all of his colleagues recall that he was an exceptionally hard working, bright workaholic who had many new ideas. However, there are some who even at that time noticed that Ivančić had significant problems in his private life, which all began with taking heavy drugs. He did, try though, to make that unnoticeable at work, but he ended up in treatment in the end.

He was not fired from EPH, instead he quit. He left his well paid job and began to organized techno parties, which in the late 1990s began a common manifestation, but that they began to lose the number of guests that they had in the first half of decade. Quantity took the place of quality, and the visitors fewer, which means that they were not achieving their expected profits. The party in Čakovec, titled “Globe 2000” was Ivančić’s project and with a low number of tickets sold, they lost much money. In the meantime, Ivančić gained many new friends, or – as they are referred to today – acquaintances. He was well known in the media, in marketing agencies, he met with many nightclub owners, and he knew the domestic jet set well and those in the fashion industry. He was well known on the islands of Brač and Hvar, which in recent years have become hot spots for the domestic elite and those who believed themselves to be a part of such, and he was also well known in the region of Zagorje. Of course, virtually the whole of the Croatian gay community knew of him. They shared the same problems, and today, after his murder, there are few members of the gay community who speak ill of Ivančić. Many remember him as an exceptional dear and good looking guy who won over even the worst skeptics with his eloquence.

However, no one knew what Ivančić was really doing for a living, and it seems as though his parents, who refuse to have any contact with the media, had no idea their son was gay. When the murder showed that he liked boys more than girls, the parents did not hide their anger that this fact was released to the public. “You reporters know more than the family does,” was the comment from one of the family members at Ivančić’s funeral in Vukovar on December 20 last year. According to those who were somewhat close to the family, it seems as though Ivančić’s mother knew about her son’s inclination but – as in the majority of Croatian families – that was never discussed. However, the discovery that he was organizing male prostitution was a big shock to the family, as it seemingly was for his friends and acquaintances as well. It seems that not even his boyfriend Igor D. knew anything about that dark side of his life.

The cost of living the high life

The story which best describes Ivančić’s way of life was told by an acquaintance of his (he no longer says he is a friend), who is also part of Zagreb’s gay scene. In only the few days after Ivančić’s death, three other men, in addition to Igor D. contacted him and claimed that they had been in an intimate relationship with the deceased, and each man claimed that it was he and not Igor D. who was Ivančić’s boyfriend. They all were in the same age group as Igor D. – between 20 and 25 – and they spoke of the killed man in almost the same words as Igor D.: that they loved him, that they were in a relationship with him and prepared to do anything for him as Ivančić was selflessly devoted to them.

Those who earlier worked with Ivančić claim that his drug problem should have been noticed much earlier, since there were many small indications. For example, Ivančić owned a car for a short time, but then suddenly had to sell it. This was considered to be part of bad business handling in connection with the organized techno parties. However, many will say that this was a problem of settling drug bills for obtaining various opiates. Was prostitution then a conscious and willing choice by Davor Ivančić, or was he forced into the business out of circumstance? It is impossible to answer this question with any certainty. Had he been forced to sell himself, it is difficult to imaging that he would have then decided to organize a circle of relatively young men who would do the same, so that he could become their pimp and take half of their earnings. This is how much Vrbanić was supposed to give him: of the 600 kunas he earned by giving oral sex, 300 were supposed to go to Ivančić.

Just how many other young men there were is also unknown, however, according to available information for various sources, there was at least ten. Whether they were forced, whether they were blackmailed and the other reasons why they got involved in the world’s oldest profession are impossible to determine. Josip Vrbanić was unemployed, very poor and living in a village with no future. He contacted Ivančić through the personal ads, after reading that he was looking for men to work as escorts. In his statement to the police, Vrbanić claims that he had no idea that Ivančić was looking for “men for men”, but there is no one to confirm or deny his claims. If that work was so offensive to him, he could have turned it down, however, he accepted. Like the others who worked for Ivančić.

According to some members of the Zagreb gay scene, Ivančić won over some of his boys at techno parties. Even prior to Ivančić’s murder, it was a well known secret that these techno parties were connected to drug use, and the young who gathered there never had enough money. Without generalization, the fact remains that the majority of those visiting these parties were taking some form of drug. Two or three ecstasy pills has its price, and kids need to pay for transportation to get to and from the party, entrance fees, drink enough fluids (if not, ecstasy and the active behaviors it arouses can cause dehydration and even death) – all this has its price, and considering the economic situation in the country today, this is not a small one. It is indubitable that in such a situation it was not difficult to find someone to “work” to earn money to finance this lifestyle.

Croatian stars

The age of the men working for Ivančić is also significant. The search for young prostitutes is visible on Zagreb’s streets even in the early hours of the evening. Across from the Botanical Gardens, near the building which used to house the National and University Librarian, about ten young girls gather there and offer their services from 50 to 100 DEM, or sometimes even more. The same scene is visible at the end of Gajeva Street, across from the Esplanada Hotel. It is difficult to believe that some of the girls standing there are of legal age, however, their bodies are available to anyone willing to pay. According to the rumors in the Zagreb underground, some of these girls were recruited from student housing. The younger they are, the more their services are sought, and the more potential customers, meaning more profit. This also goes for their pimps. The services of male prostitutes are even more expensive: if it is true that Ivančić was paid 600 kunas for oral sex, then that is twice the amount paid to a female prostitute for the same service. Male prostitution is much more difficult to see on the streets, since their services are most frequently offered through ads. Three times weekly, the “Plavi Oglasnik” is published, which has a personal ads section among the free ads. The majority of the ads state that the person in question, or pair (in all combinations) are seeking a “situated gentleman” or “situated lady”, to “offer unforgettable moments to a situated couple or individuals of either sex”. Seeking “situated” is code for prostitution. A telephone number is given, almost always a cell number, and the usually do not want to respond to SMS messages or calls from hidden telephone numbers.

The police have many problems with this form of prostitution. Firstly, it is difficult to determine whom the mobile phone belongs to, since pre-paid customers are not registered in classical telephone registries. Secondly, it is not necessary the case that the person the phone is registered to is the prostitute or the pimp. It is also difficult to learn that the phrase “situated lady” is the code for paid services. In the end, if all this is proven, the fact remains that the police do not know who stands behind the prostitution, rather the pimps, who are the main organizers of the entire business. The loss of one or ten workers does not affect the market – new “employees” are always easy to find.

However, according to the information available, Davor Ivančić worked in the classical way as well: in the American Bar of the Sheraton Hotel. Ivančić lived fifty meters away from the Sheraton, in the apartment he was found dead in. His neighbors claim that the company visiting Ivančić’s apartment was always changing, but that there were never women. Always smiling and in a good mood, he always was very polite with the other residents, winning them over with his charm, and in return, they did not mind his noisy gatherings after midnight, when he would host his friends. Before coming home, he would spend his evenings at the American Bar, a gathering place for stars, diplomats, foreigners traveling through Zagreb, the domestic mafia and an undefined mass of people who had enough money for expensive cocktails and bad entertainment offered there.

Orderly civil lives

The lobby of the Sheraton was also a place of operation, especially in the informal gatherings and morning coffees of the diplomatic core, domestic politicians, foreigners and even the intelligence community. Today, it is known for certain that Ivančić’s clients were made up of ordinary people as well as the diplomats, politicians and show business stars. Some of these politicians are well known to the gay community, and one of the best known among them has such an appetite that in spite of his middle age, the last boy he had was under 18 years old. Prior to this, this politician had many acquaintances in Zagreb’s gay circles, and he often satisfied his secret needs abroad, where he could give in to his pleasures without the fear of being discovered. This is the practice used by the majority. At one time, even the vice president of HSLS, Dorica Nikolić, commented publicly that there were many homosexuals in the Croatian state administration who were carefully coving up their inclinations towards the same sex.

All these people, the diplomats, the jet set and the politicians, live regular lives with their wives and children. If one can believe the claims of those who knew Ivančić but say they had no idea of what he was involved in, then it will be that his discretion – an essential prerequisite of providing prostitutes for high society – was very strict. Thus, it is no surprise that at one moment, the suspicion arose that the Ivančić’s murder may have been ordered: there were suspicions that he had been blackmailing someone, and a brutal murder would certainly have been the end of that story.

Female prostitution works in the same way, and up until 3 or 4 years ago, prostitutes were part of the inventory of every better hotel lobby. They were working in cooperation with the head of reception, and while they could explain them as “ fine ladies drinking coffee in the hotel bar”; in truth they were waiting to hear which room to go to. According to one person well informed as to male prostitution, that model has been taken over by men these days, especially since that form is most often based on recommendations, for both the person seeking the service, and the one providing it. Further, until recently the “ladies from the hotel bar” were frequently guests at private parties for the domestic economic and political leaders, and the men provided their services in the same way: ordering a “stripper” (one of the euphemisms for male prostitute) at a private party has become a regular practice. Stripping is well paid, and what happens later, and whom the stripper offers their services to is simply a matter of extra payment, and not the sex seeking the service.

Unresolved murders

Prostitution is connected to the risks of the profession, and the places it takes place. A little over a year ago, owner of the “American Bar”, Edvin Softić, manager to singers Danijela Martinović and Petar Grašo, was beaten by former members of the army and police since Softić refused to pay their racket. For 15 minutes, the guests at American Bar watched as Softić was beaten badly, with the majority of his teeth knocked out. Even though it was well known who the regular guests of American Bar were, his popularity was maintained by hosting performances by the stars he also managed.

The popularity of that bar also brought Ivančić his customers. Though Softić claims that he never met Ivančić and that he had no idea who he was, those who know Ivančić claim that the two men were actually close. Obviously, the model of the prostitution business was taken from bad American films about life during prohibition – only here the issue is not alcohol but prostitutes. Further, it was not difficult to go from the American Bar to the rooms of the Sheraton, and if the guests needed discretion from even the hotel staff, there was always Ivančić’s apartment, practically across the street. Thus, it is no surprise that among those questioned by police was Softić himself, in addition to his regular guests, including members of the media. Putting together the pieces of this puzzle led to the conclusion that Ivančić knew many intimate secrets of the Zagreb jet set, at whose expense he lived. Even though the police have several murders of homosexuals still unresolved in their files, including one foreign citizen, finding the murderer of Davor Ivančić showed that it is impossible to connect him with the other crimes. The speculations that there was a “gay killer” in Zagreb showed to be untrue, and the killer of French citizen Jean Pierre Poulain over a year and a half ago come from the circle of Zagreb skinheads, with whom the gay population has had numerous problems and physical confrontations in the last five years. In spite of the fact that they know which circles the killer or killers belonged to, and that the French Embassy has pushed several times for the case to be solved, it remains unsolved. The murders in Split of homosexuals have remained unsolved due to meddling by local Church structures, since both the victims and the likely killers belonged to the Church. The unpopularity of gay in the church even today is very strong, and in every such situation, the Church tries to cover up the event in order to build an image of purity of the institution and its believers. Further hindering similar investigations in the police is the lack of knowledge by many of its members as to the lifestyles of certain urban subcultures. The ten year erosion in the police has left significant consequences on the possibility of solving murders in circles they do not know enough about, and it is unquestionable that certain police officers are also connected to that milieu. For example, there have been many accusations that until recently the police tolerated skinhead violence towards certain groups (including homosexuals) since the police did not know how to “clean up” parks in the center of town of “unwanted situations”. On the other hand, other officers had been paid off by pimps and prostitutions and in return they were left unbothered to pick up customers on well lighted streets. Further, the legal structures were also paying racket, particularly those which were supposed to be taking care of law and order. The new leaders of the police though believe that such practices are a thing of the past.

Conspiracy of silence

Not knowing the homosexual milieu, like its social isolation, on the one hand out of need and on the other voluntary, is also a big problem the police are facing. Ivančić’s last gig was supposed to be promoting the nightclub “Global”, across the street from where he was found dead, a club that has become a popular hang out for the gay population, and where Igor D. even worked for a time. While the police were blazing ahead with reports that they were “questioning homosexuals”, the police were facing a world unknown to them. Some of those who had been called for questioning at police headquarters about their possible contacts with the victim or the killer left the police not at all surprised about the questions concerning their private lives. For example, when questioned how they found sexual partners, and when they commented that they received much assistance from the Internet, the police were surprised, with only one question: how? When society is already not inclined towards homosexuals, they then have to turn to the Internet. There are numerous web pages which help the gay population find partners. And the cyberspace in Croatia is completely uncontrolled, which was also proven by the recently broken chain of child pornographers, which the police were very proud of, but it was never explained just how much effort it took to uncover that ring.

No one controls all that the Croatian cyberspace has to offer, and thus the consequences of such are unpredictable. This can be an advantage for homosexuals and other marginalized groups in society, but it can also be a source of problems. Looking for a partner over the Internet (chat rooms or Internet ads) hold all the traps of blind dates within them. That which is presented on the Internet as an opportunity, in truth can be the exact opposite, and can have serious consequences. However, that is the risk of living in the realm of the illegal, which the majority of homosexuals decide to take. The murder of Davor Ivančić, who knew nothing about his killer Josip Vrbanić, is only one indicator of how contacts, even business contacts, set up through the personal ads, can end up.

Davor Ivančić also lived in the illegal. Even though he was a declared homosexual among his friends, his life was a complete enigma to them, which is only now surfacing, and that is due more to political insistence than to good will. However the conspiracy of silence is so strong, proven by the fact that of all those people we spoke to – even those who were his closest friends – did not want to be cited, or named. Drugs, prostitution, seedy locals with even seedier clientele and who knows what Ivančić’s relationship was to these things – and the result was one quiet funeral at the new Vukovar graveyards, which was attended only his parents, his closest relatives, his official boyfriend Igor D., and only three of all his friends.