Serbia nets alleged Balkan drug boss with help from CIA

March 19, 2014 - 10:40:29 am

BELGRADE: Alleged Balkan drug boss Darko Saric, one of the most wanted figures in the crime-riddled region, surrendered to Serbian police yesterday as a dragnet involving the CIA closed in on him in Latin America, Serbian authorities said.

Serbia’s government said the 43-year-old had set no conditions for his surrender, other than to see his wife, son and daughter for 30 minutes at Podgorica airport in neighbouring Montenegro en route from an unspecified third country to Belgrade.

Saric, a Serbian citizen of Montenegrin origin, faces 13 indictments including the trafficking of 5.7 tonnes of cocaine from South America to Europe and laundering of ¤22m in Serbia.

After almost five years on the run, Serbia said it had located Saric moving within four Latin American countries and that, having realised his arrest may be imminent, he had offered to surrender.

“On February 24, his lawyer contacted the Serbian government and offered his unconditional surrender, which we accepted,” Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a televised cabinet session. He said Serbian and Montenegrin security officers had been in the third country, and that Saric was escorted to Montenegro and then on to Belgrade.

“Our huge efforts have borne fruit,” Vucic said, adding that particular gratitude was owed to the CIA. Television pictures showed a handcuffed Saric emerging from a Serbian plane in Belgrade in jeans and a white shirt and stepping into a police vehicle.

The breakthrough came two days after a parliamentary election won in a landslide by Vucic’s centre-right Progressive Party thanks, in large part, to Vucic’s role as leader of a popular campaign against crime and corruption. 

It follows the arrest last year in Serbia’s former Kosovo province of Naser Kelmendi, blacklisted by the United States on suspicion of trafficking drugs to Europe.