Serbia Probes Officials’ Alleged Ties to Organized Criminals

By Dialogo
February 08, 2013

Serbian prosecutors are investigating alleged contacts between top state
officials and suspected organized criminals after reports surfaced that Prime
Minister Ivica Dacic had met a key aide of an alleged drug kingpin, an official said
on February 6.

Organized crime prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic said he had told police to
“collect data on alleged meetings” between top state officials and
members of a “narco-clan” led by Darko Saric, an alleged Balkan cocaine
king who has been on the run for more than four years.

“All that is happening is unpleasant and difficult, but we are solving
these cases once and for all,” said Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic,
leader of the conservative Serbian Progressive Party, the country’s strongest
political force.

For weeks, Serbian media have speculated about alleged contacts between top
government officials with Saric’s aides and suspected drug

Saric and his 19-member group have been on trial in absentia on charges of
cocaine smuggling from South America to Europe. He has also been indicted for money
laundering in Serbia.

Dacic, who at the time was Serbia’s interior minister, said he had met
one of Saric’s aides in 2008, but denied any wrongdoing.

“This is a cunning and dirty plot against me… All those proven
guilty who I know will end in prison. The fact that I know them is not protection
but a handicap for them because I will be even more ruthless because they betrayed
my trust,” Dacic told reporters.

The affair has rocked the uneasy ruling coalition between Vucic’s party
and socialists led by Dacic, but both leaders have insisted that the government,
formed last July, would not collapse.

Vucic said his party would not seek early elections, but warned “no one
will be spared” during the investigation.

“The state is stronger than any individual… We must not allow
anything to become an obstacle to Serbia’s path towards the European
Union,” Vucic said.

Serbia obtained EU candidate status last March, but has yet to be given a
date for membership talks. The decision is conditioned with further progress in a
EU-sponsored dialogue with breakaway Kosovo.