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news 13 Jul 15

Serbia Jails Saric For 20 Years For Drugs Smuggling

Belgrade’s Special court for Organized Crime in a first-instance verdict on Monday jailed Darko Saric for 20 years for smuggling cocaine from Latin America.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
           Saric as he arrived in Belgrade in handcuffs

Besides Saric, the court in Belgrade jailed around 30 defendants, 14 of whom are still on the run.

 After being found guilty of smuggling more than five tons of cocaine from South America in 2008 and 2009, the gang members received jail sentences of five months to 20 years each.

This was a first-instance verdict and both the accused and the prosecution can appeal.

Saric's lawyer Radoslav Bacovic said he would certainly appeal the verdict for his client, adding that Saric did not attend the sentencing for “personal reasons”.

During the trial, three of the accused, Drasko Vukovic, Radan Adamovic and Nebojsa Joksovic, were given insider witness status and will not serve jail sentences because they testified against the other defendants.

Prosecutors filed charges against Saric and his alleged associates in April 2010 and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Saric was at first tried in absentia until he surrendered to the Serbian authorities on 18 March 2014. He had been on the run since 2010.

At the trial, Saric pleaded not guilty, claiming that there was no evidence for charges that he organized cocaine smuggling from Latin America.

He called the process politically motivated, arguing that the case against him had been mounted by officials of the former Democratic Party-led government and by former senior police officials.

Saric said that they wanted him to accuse the Montenegrin government of crimes during the trial because of the then poor relations between the two countries.

However, he failed to submit any evidence supporting his claims against politicians and police officials.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic stated in Montenegro on March 16 that the Serbian police had not closed their investigation into his various accomplices and would do everything "that needs to be done to uncovering his possible accomplices, wherever they
might be".

The trial of Branko Lazarevic, the former chief of staff of the Interior Ministry of Serbia, for revealing confidential information to Saric's gang, meanwhile started on May 7 in Belgrade.

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