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News 31 May 12

Police Search Sandzak Mufti's Home in Crime Sweep

Police have searched the home of the chief mufti of the Serbian Islamic community in the hunt for a gang suspected of carrying out financial crimes.

Mufti Zukorlic at a preelection gathering | Photo by Beta/Milan Obradovic

Police said they searched the ground floor of Mufti Muamer Zukorlic's house, which is registered as an accounting office owned by his wife, as part of a nationwide operation against suspected fraudsters.

In the mufti's house they were searching for documents related to a company owned by his nephew, who is among 22 people detained in the operation.

They include eight customs officers and 14 directors and owners of private companies.

The police action started at 6am on Thursday morning in Belgrade, Pancevo, Subotica, Novi Becej and in Novi Pazar, the main town in the mainly Muslim southwest Sandzak region.

Mufti Zukorlic, a prominent politician in the Sandzak region, described the police raid on his house as an “act of violence” and as a “demonstration of force.

“There can be no doubt that this is another act of violence with an aim of crushing the dignity of Bosniaks [Muslims]. Breaking into bedrooms of Muslim men and women is the crudest form of trampling on their basic human dignity and human rights,” Zukorlic told a local newspaper, Sandzak press.

He urged the police minister, the head of police and the prosecutorial authorities and courts to bring the perpetrators of this alleged intimidation to justice.

“This mustn’t be repeated again because it is playing around with the stability of this area,” Zukorlic said, referring to the region's simmering ethnic tensions.

If the police continued to act in this way “people can only try to organize themselves and defend their honor, dignity, house, and basic human freedoms,” he said.

Milorad Veljovic, head of Serbian police, said the detainees are suspected of forging documentation on importing goods from 2009.

“They reduced the price of goods they imported from EU and Euro-Asian countries through the customs office in Subotica, and by reducing the taxes they paid, deprived the state budget of about a billion dinars (10 milion euro),” Veljovic said.

The Customs Administration of the Ministry of Finance said the identities of the alleged criminals were discovered following a months-long joint investigation by the Interior Ministry’s Department for Fighting Organized Crime and the Customs Administration. The investigation was coordinated by the Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime.

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