By Igor Jovanovic
Serbian police are being more consistent in prosecuting cocaine cartels, which officials and analysts said will be most effective in the fight against the criminals.
“The fight against the drug mafia must be constant,” Zoran Dragisic, a Belgrade Faculty of Security professor, told SETimes.
The Balkan route, which sees cocaine and heroin smuggling from South America into Europe, goes through the region, Dragisic said.
Cocaine smuggling is mostly handled by criminals from Serbia and Montenegro, whereas the Albanian mafia operates in heroin trafficking, he said.
“This is a business that brings a lot of money, hence powerful people are in question,” Dragisic said. “The best sign that the police are successful in the struggle is when the market prices of heroin and cocaine go up, because that means there is a shortage.”
“It’s very hard to reach success in the fight against drug cartels … [because] it is difficult to obtain evidence against them,” Dobrivoje Radovanovic of the Institute of Criminological Research, told SETimes.
One of the biggest successes in the fight against drug cartels in the region was under operation Balkan Warrior, when more than two tonnes of cocaine was seized earlier this year. The action marked the beginning of the judicial persecution of one of the biggest drug lords in the region, Darko Saric.
Upon hearing the first news of the cocaine confiscation, Saric fled Serbia, where he had lived quietly and far from the public eye, and remains on the run.
Saric and his aides are charged in Serbia with smuggling large quantities of cocaine. The list of the possible places he could be hiding includes South Africa, certain European states and his homeland of Montenegro.
“Good regional police co-operation is the only way to fight drug cartels which are very powerful and well organised,” Serbian Police Director Milorad Veljovic told SETimes.
Montenegrin officials denied allegations that Saric was hiding on their territory.
“If Darko Saric is located in Montenegro, he will be arrested in line with the international arrest warrant Interpol Belgrade has issued for him,” the Montenegrin police said.
Saric’s arrest is “now in the hands of foreign services,” said Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, who also serves as interior minister.
The Serbian police have formed a special team to deal with Saric’s arrest. The first deputy prime minister in charge of the co-ordination of security services, Aleksandar Vucic, voiced hope that the accused might be arrested in the first six months of 2013.
Anti-Organised Crime Service Slavisa Sovtic said the police were reluctant to speak about deadlines in such cases, but added that all steps and actions will be taken toward Saric’s arrest.
“Saric’s arrest alone is not enough,” Radovanovic said. “It is necessary to prevent someone from taking his place. There is already information that the Albanian and Bulgarian mafia are vying for the post of ‘heir’.”