Serbian and Montenegrin police forces arrested on Tuesday morning (March 18) suspected drug lord Darko Saric after he offered to surrender earlier this year following four years on the run, the government in Belgrade informed.
Saric, who is accused of organising an international drugs trade chain, had been a fugitive after an international arrest warrant was issued against him in January 2010. The Serbian authorities accuse him of smuggling more than 5.5 tonnes of drugs and laundering over EUR 20mn in the country.
Serb justice minister Nikola Selakovic told an extraordinary news conference in Belgrade that Saric was captured after unconditionally surrendering to the authorities a month and a half ago – when his arrest became certain.
Selakovic said the unconditional surrendering was agreed between the sides involved in order to avoid any bloodshed and casualties during the arrest. After Saric’s advocate offered the suspected drug lord’s surrender to the justice ministry earlier in 2014, the negotiating process has been developing parallel with the attempts to locate Saric.
The minister also said that Serbia’s security services have located Saric’s steps in several countries in Latin America, adding the police spent nine months trying to find and arrest the suspect. The Montenegrin interior ministry also contributed significantly to the operation, as well as the security agencies of other countries including the US, Spain, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Saric was arrested in Montenegro and brought to Serbia on Tuesday morning. After the police identified him, he was handed to Belgrade’s special court where his hearing already began.
Serbia’s special prosecutor in charge of organised crime Miljko Radisavljevic told the same news conference the exact place and way of Saric’s arrest cannot be revealed for the time being since further 15 suspects in cocaine trafficking and three suspects in money laundering are still on the run and the police is trying to locate and arrest them.
Radisavljevic said Saric is accused of smuggling 5.574 tonnes of narcotics and laundering at least EUR 22mn in Serbia.
The next stage of the trial against the Saric clan members will be held on March 24. It will become clear then if Saric will seek a delay in order to prepare his defence.
News agency Tanjug reported the Belgrade court ordered a 60-day detention for Saric. The report added Saric told the hearing he was hiding in Latin America and southern Africa.
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