Serbian foreign minister linked to gangster

By bne IntelliNews September 8, 2015

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Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who is also the current chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), met repeatedly with a gangster later convicted of cocaine smuggling, according to videos published on KRIK, a site set up by journalists to expose corruption.

Although rumours of Dacic’s connections to fugitive Rodoljub Radulovic had long been circulating, this is the first concrete proof of the links between the two. It could put pressure on the government, in which Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) is a junior partner of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). There is speculation in the Serbian press that the growing scandal could force Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s government to call early elections.

The videos, published on September 7, date back to 2008 and 2009, when Dacic was deputy prime minister and interior affairs minister. They show Dacic and three other senior officials, Vanja Vukic, Branko Lazarevic and Ivica Toncev, in an intimate conversation with Radulovic.

Better known as “Misa Banana” or “Misa America”, Radulovic was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison in July 2015, but has so far managed to avoid arrest. He was part of a gang led by Serbian mafia boss Darko Saric, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the same case, involving the smuggling of 5.7 tonnes of cocaine from Latin America to Western Europe.

According to KRIK, Radulovic met nine times with senior interior ministry officials between November 29, 2008 and April 7, 2009, when the videos were recorded. The Serbian intelligence agency used hidden cameras to record the meetings, as part of their surveillance of Radulovic during Operation Most (Bridge), which targeted the smuggling ring.

Dacic is an influential figure in Serbian politics, and is unlikely to stand down following the publication of the videos. He was Serbia’s prime minister between May 2012 and March 2014, the result of a pre-election pact between the SPS and its coalition party the SNS, even though the latter took more votes in the May 2012 election.

After the SNS won a resounding victory in the March 2014 elections, taking 157 seats in the 250-seat parliament, its candidate Vucic replaced Dacic as prime minister. Although the SNS could have formed a government alone, Vucic decided to continue in partnership with the SPS and Dacic was appointed foreign minister.

When Serbia took over the rotating presidency of the OSCE in 2015, as Serbia’s foreign minister, Dacic became its chairman. Since the OSCE’s role includes maintaining the rule of law, policing and combating criminal activities such as human trafficking, the revelations about Dacic’s criminal links could tarnish Serbia’s presidency of the organisation.

On September 7, the foreign ministry distributed a personal statement from Dacic. The emailed statement says that Dacic was not aware Radulovic was a criminal at the time of the meetings.

Vucic, who is currently in Berlin, told journalists on September 7 that he would deal with the issue on his return to Belgrade, Serbian news service B92 reported.

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