In a major European operation against drug trafficking, police arrested Darko Saric, who is already being tried for smuggling large amounts of cocaine, and several alleged members of his criminal organisation.
Darko Saric. Photo: EPA/Andrej Cukic.
Darko Saric, allegedly a major Serbian drugs trafficker, was arrested on Thursday morning at his wife’s villa in Belgrade’s upmarket suburb of Dedinje as part of an international operation coordinated by EUROPOL and EUROJUST, the EU’s agencies for law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation.
Police also arrested four other members of an alleged organised criminal group that is believed to operate in Serbia, elsewhere in Europe and in South America.
Saric is the suspected organiser of the group, and police are “intensively searching for the rest of the members”, a police statement said.
They are charged with association for the purpose of committing criminal acts, aggravated murder, the illicit production and distribution of narcotics, the illicit production, possession, carrying and trafficking of weapons and explosives, general endangerment and abuse of their official position.
Serbian media reported that along with Saric, his lawyer, Dejan Lazarevic was arrested, and the lawyer’s office was searched.
Lazarevic is known for representing major figures in criminal cases such as notorious alleged gang boss Veljko Belivuk.
Serbian media reported that a dozen police officers were also arrested.
According to media reports, Saric had access to five phones, two satellite phones and one with the encrypted messaging application Sky, which was popular with organised crime and drug-smuggling gangs.
Saric, who is alleged to have been one of the largest drug barons in the Balkans for years, was sentenced in 2018 to 15 years in prison for smuggling 5.7 tons of cocaine from South America to Europe. But the verdict was overturned in June last year and the case sent back to the appeals court.
In December 2021, Saric was released from custody and placed under house arrest.
The police operation that saw Saric arrested was also conducted in Croatia, where the Interior Ministry said that in cooperation with the Office for the Fight against Organised Crime, USKOK, it arrested ten people who allegedly smuggled at least a ton and a half of cocaine from South America.
This article was updated on April 15, 2022, to amend the location of Darko Saric’s wife’s villa.
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