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news 29 Nov 13

Bosnia Jails Top Crime Gang for 100 Years

Zijad Turkovic and his accomplices, charged with several murders, attempted murders, drug smuggling and robbery, were jailed for a total of 100 years.

Elvira M. Jukic

In what has been described as the largest trial for organized crime in Bosnia in two decades, on Thursday a Bosnian court jailed gangster chief Zijad Turkovic for 40 years for running a crime ring that committed several murders, smuggled drugs and carried out robberies.

His accomplice, Milenko Lakic, was also jailed for 40 years. Sasa Stjepanovic got 12 years, Fadil Aljovic, five, and Muamer Zahitovic, three.

The gang was found guilty of five murders, three attempted murders, smuggling narcotics, stealing around 1.3 million euro from ABS bank in the Cargo Centre of Sarajevo Airport, illegal weapons trafficking and extortion.

Turkovic was sentenced for organized crime related to murder, attempted murder, trafficking in narcotics, causing general danger, extortion and money laundering.

Lakic was sentenced for organized crime, and for planning and committing murder.

Stjepanovic was found guilty of organized crime in relation to murders, trading in narcotics and robbery from the airport cargo department.

“The largest criminal organization in post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina was fairly convicted to a unique sentence of total of 100 years,” Boris Grubesic, spokesperson of the Prosecutor, said.

In its explanation of the verdict, the court said the group murdered Midhat Mekic, his pregnant partner, Lucia Salas Cortes, Mario Tolic, Verner Ajdari and Rajko Milovanovic.

The five murders were likened to gangland-style movie slayings, as some of the bodies were found walled up in a house while others were found dumped in mountains.

The group was also f0und guilty of the attempted murder of Anes Kurbegovic - they fired a grenade launcher at his apartment - and of Naser Kelmendi and his son, Elvis. Turkovic admitted taking money to carry out the killings.

Six other persons related to the group earlier confessed guilt and agreed sentences with the court, ranging from one to five years in prison.

In his closing words at the trial last month, Turkovic said the process against him was a set-up. He said the murder charges had been attached to his name instead of Naser Kelmendi, another alleged Balkan gangster, who he said had paid for the accusations to be directed towards him.

  Fahrija Karkin, Turkovic's attorney, on November 28 said that the Sarajevo Cantonal Prosecutor had started an investigation this week into the alleged bribery of State Prosecutor Oleg Cavka.

Karkin said he would use this as evidence in the appeal against the 40-year-sentence of his client, saying Cavka was the only one who questioned Isljam Kalender, a protected witness who was released from prison and from whom he allegedly took the bribe.

Turkovic accused the prosecutor, Oleg Cavka, of participating in the alleged set-up, claiming he received bribe of 30,000 euro related to the set-up.

Bosnia's Security Ministry, led by Fahrudin Radoncic, praised the verdict, saying it hoped that other grave cases of crime and corruption would end with similarly severe sentences.

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