News 09 Jan 13

Serbia Predicts Balkan Drug Lord's Arrest

Authorities are predicting the imminent arrest of Serbia's most wanted criminal, Darko Saric, who has been on the run for three years.

Belgrade

Serbian media are reporting that the Serbian police, together with US Drug Enforcement bodies, are undertaking intensive action on locating Darko Saric, a man seen as a major drug lord in southern Europe.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said this week that police were “on the track of locating the chief of the Balkan mafia and his arrest may be expected soon”.

His deputy, Aleksandar Vucic, has previously said that “the circle around Saric is getting smaller, which will result in his arrest”.

A specialist in organised crime, Vojislav Tufegdzic, said it was unusual for politicians to announce arrests in the media.

“Maybe their goal is to confuse Saric so he makes a wrong move and reveals where is he hiding… But this also can be seen as wishful thinking among Serbian politicians and a move that can score them political points,” Tufegdzic told Radio Free Europe.

Saric, who is of Montenegrin origin but holds Serbian citizenship, allegedly leads an organised criminal group suspected of smuggling high quality cocaine from Latin America to Europe. He is currently at large.

Serbian prosecutors filed charges against Saric and 19 alleged associates in April 2010 on suspicion that they had trafficked in cocaine and laundered money.

The Serbian authorities say he heads a major drug trafficking network running from South Africa to Europe, and estimate that he has made more than €1 billion annually.

Vladimir Bozovic, state secretary in the Interior Ministry, said the ministry is investigating who gave a Serbian passport to Saric.

“I will insist on determining who gave Saric Serbian citizenship and why, who made it possible for him to buy private companies and which officials made it possible for him to buy land,” Bozovic said.

Saric was last seen in South Africa, reportedly living under a pseudonym in the province of Gauteng, which contains the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

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