Serbian mafia

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Serbian mafia
Territory Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, European Union, North America, Australia
Ethnicity Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosnian Serbs
Criminal activities Arms trafficking, Assassination, Assault, Auto theft, Bank fraud, Bankruptcy, Blackmailing, Bribery, Car bombing, Contract killing, Extortion, Fraud, Human trafficking, Infiltration of Politics, Illegal gambling, Insurance fraud, Kidnapping, Military corruption, Military Equipment smuggling, Money laundering, Murder, Police corruption, Political corruption, Protection racket, Racketeering, Tax evasion, Theft, Witness intimidation, Witness tampering.
Allies Romanian Mafia, Russian mafia
Rivals Albanian mafia

Serbian Organized Crime (Serbian: Cpпска мафија / Srpska Mafija, Serbian Mafia) are various criminal organizations based in Serbia or composed of ethnic Serbs in the Serbian diaspora. The organizations are primarily involved in smuggling, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, protection rackets and illegal gambling. The Mafia is composed of several major organized groups, which in turn have wider networks throughout Europe.

The Serbian Mafia gave many Serbs a perceived way out of the economic disaster that occurred in the country following the implementation of internationally imposed sanctions against Serbia during the Yugoslav Wars. Serbian criminals have been recruited to state security forces, a notable example being Legija, a commander in Arkan's Tigers which was re-labelled as the JSO (Red Berets) after the war. Legija also planned the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.[1]

The ethnic Serbian OC groups are organized in the horizontal manner and higher-ranked members are not necessarily coordinated by any leader.[1]

History[edit]

Ljuba Zemunac was known as the "Godfather" of the Serbian Mafia during the 1970s and 1980s. He and his gang operated in Germany and Italy during this time.[2] He was assassinated in 1986 by his rival Goran Vuković "Vrapčina".

Vukasin Despotovic operated in the Netherlands and became one of the most powerful gangsters through his elimination of rivals while working as a hitman and took over the drug trade in the Netherlands.[3] The drug that was smuggled was cocaine and it was obtained from contacts in Colombia[3] and earned Amsterdam the name the "Cocaine King".[4] He worked for "Duja" Bećirović as an underboss and later lived in Bulgaria where he successfully smuggled drugs until his arrest in 2002.[3] Upon returning to Serbia, he took over companies by force, utilizing the Surčin clan,[3] (one of three then most powerful "clans" of Belgrade). He was later involved in the 2008 car bombing of Croatian journalists Ivo Pukanić and Niko Franjić.

Later, gangster "Željko Ražnatović Arkan" was a successful bank robber in Western Europe during the 1970s. He had convictions and warrants in Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. However, he managed to escape from several prisons and then made connections with several known criminals from Yugoslavia during his time there. In the 1980s he returned to Serbia where he became involved with illegal businesses and led the Red Star Belgrade supporters' group Delije Sever Ultras.[5]

The real breakthrough for criminal organizations in Serbia occurred in 1991, when the Yugoslav Wars erupted in Croatia and Bosnia. The Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks fought over territory in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. International sanctions were imposed on Serbia starting in 1991 and the Republic became economically isolated. The economic disaster prompted the breakthrough for criminal organizations. Desperate for money, many former-soldiers and youths turned to a life of crime.

In 1992, members of the "Peca" gang were arrested in a massive police-operation. One of the gang's members was Dušan Spasojević, who later became the head of the Zemun clan.[6] A young mobster from Belgrade's suburb Voždovac, Aleksandar Knežević "Knele", was murdered in October of that year, prompting a brief, but violent Gang War in Belgrade. He was the son of Belgrade gangster "Buca Al Kapone".[6]

Željko Ražnatović Arkan was the founder and leader of the Serb Volunteer Guard (Arkan's Tigers), a Serb paramilitary unit that fought during the Yugoslav Wars. The unit's members were mostly newly recruited Red Star Belgrade hooligans and gangsters from Serbia.[5] Those who joined the unit profited on the battlefields by looting and stealing. Arkan later founded the Party of Serbian Unity in 1993. By the time he returned from the battlefields of Croatia, he had become the most powerful member of the Serbian Mafia. He soon married Turbo-Folk singer Ceca, who was at the time the most popular singer in Serbia.[7]

Slobodan Milošević

Slobodan Milošević, the President of Serbia, protected the Mafia in exchange for political favors, thus having a direct connection to their activities. At the time, the Mafia profited by smuggling cigarettes, alcohol and oil. Businessman Stanko Subotić was the person that made the largest profit at this time, as cigarettes and oil were in such high demand because of the sanctions. Subotić's net worth is estimated to be €650 million.[8] After Milošević's overthrow, Subotić maintained a connection with Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović, who granted him political favours just like Milošević had to other criminals previously.[9]

From 1994-2000, illegal cigarette smuggling in Italy was operated by the Serbian Mafia in coordination with the Italian Mafia.[10]

Serb and Montenegrin soldiers who had returned from the front-lines of the Yugoslav Wars found that the only way that they could make profits was by turning to a life of crime. The most common crimes were assassinations, kidnappings, drug and cigarette trafficking, robberies, money laundering, racketeering and illegal software production.[1]

In 1998, 350 kilograms of heroin were seized at the Serbian-Bulgarian border.[11]

Arkan's tomb

On 15 January 2000, Arkan was assassinated in the lobby of the Continental Hotel in Belgrade. The killer, Dobrosav Gavrić, was a 23-year-old police mobile brigade's junior member. Gavrić had ties to the Serbian Mafia.

Slobodan Milošević was dethroned in the October 2000 Bulldozer Revolution. However, a bloody feud soon emerged among the different criminal "clans" of Belgrade. The feud grew into an open war in which many of the key Mafia bosses were assassinated.[7]

In 2000, a total of €841,000,000 was determined to have been made in illegal profits in Serbia.[12]

Monument of Ivan Stambolić near the site of the killing

25 August 2000. Ivan Stambolić, former Serbian President was abducted during recreation Kosutnjak in Belgrade, just before the federal election in which it was mentioned that he could be included as a candidate for the President of the FRY, and since then he disappeared without a trace. The remains of Ivan Stambolića were found in Fruska gora on March 28, 2003. He was killed on the same day he had been hijacked by members of the Zemun clan. The funeral was on 8 April in Topcider cemetery with all state honors at the insistence of the government of Serbia.

By the early 2000s, the Serbian Mafia had more money than the Serbian government and was better armed than the Serbian Army and Serbian police, according to Serbian Interior Minister Dušan Mihajlović. He said that Slobodan Milošević had given life to crime-syndicates as a "state-sanctioned mafia". Prostitutes from Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine were smuggled into Serbia. After Milošević lost power, the Mafia began seeking a new contact in the government.[9] In September 2001, 700 kilograms of heroin was found in a bank vault rented by the BIA in central Belgrade. The illegal safekeeping was never explained, nor brought up.[11] In exchage for information about Kosovo Albanian terrorists, the Zemun Gang was provided "special training courses" by the Serbian Special Forces.[11]

In 2011, Dr. Gilly McKenzie, Interpol Organized Crime Unit expert, compiled a "White Book" containing 52 criminal organizations of Serbia, none of which had been terminated by the year's end. In the same year, it was concluded that the Protection rackets in the harbour cities of the Black Sea were run by Serbian, Russian and Ukrainian criminals.[13]

Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić was assassinated on 12 March 12, 2003, by members of the Special Operations Unit (Red Berets).

During the period that started with the Yugoslav wars and ended with the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić in March 2003, connections between the mafia and the government were obvious and corruption was rampant in most branches of the government, from border patrols to law-enforcement agencies. On 12 March 2003, Serbian Prime Minister Đinđić was assassinated by former Serbian Special Operations Unit (Red Berets, formerly Arkan's Tigers) Zvezdan Jovanović. Legija was involved in the assassination and he too was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Đinđić had connections within the Surčin Gang that dated back to the earlier overthrowing of Milošević. The government set in motion an operation against organized crime - "Operation Sablja" (English: Operation Sabre), which led to more than 10,000 arrests. Many New Belgrade malls, locations frequented by gangsters, were closed after the Operation,[7] 123 criminal groups were shattered with 844 members awaiting trial; 3,949 people had criminal complaints issued against them. 28 kilograms of heroin, 463 grams of Cocaine, 44,837 kilograms of Marijuana, 4,960 kilograms of synthetic drugs and 688 stolen cars were recovered in a single day.[14] Milan Sarajlić, the Deputy State Prosecutor of Serbia was arrested that day and later confessed to being on the payroll of the Zemun clan.[15]

In November 2003, 140 kilograms of marijuana were seized in Belgrade and 4 people were arrested.[16] The Red Berets are dissolved on 23 March 2003.[1]

In 2005, it was confirmed that Serbia lost 7,500,000 RSD daily because of economic crime, with the estimated total loss to criminal activity being estimated to be approximately €200,000,000 yearly.[12]

In 2006, it was revealed that Dušan Spasojević, the gang leader of the Zemun Clan, was connected to Serbian Radical leader Vojislav Šešelj, whom he had given information about high-profile murders carried out in Serbia, written about in Šešelj's two books.[17]

In January 2009, Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić estimated that some 30 to 40 serious organized crime groups were operating in Serbia.[18] The figures provided by Dačić did not include smaller criminal groups but more organized ones that were involved in drug and arms trafficking, human trafficking, murder and protection rackets.

In September 2009, 22 members of the Elez group were arrested by the Serbian police, dubbed the most dangerous gang in Western Balkans.[19] The leader, Darko Elez, is captured with 5 other members in Serbia, 13 members are captured in Bosnia & Herzegovina, of which 3 were police officers[19]

Police seized 2.8 tons (2,800 kg, worth 120 million €[20]) of cocaine shipment from Uruguay on October 17, 2009, the BIA and American DEA made the joint operation.[21][22][23] On October 31, 2009, Serbian police arrested over 500 people in the biggest anti-drug bust ever in Serbia.[23] The Interior Ministry organized the Morava-operation that would focus on drug trafficking to young people in the primary and secondary schools, clubs and cafes and would encompass 2,000 police officers searching the whole country.[24]

In November, 2009, Argentine Police arrested 5 Serbian drug couriers and seized their 492 kilograms of cocaine in Buenos Aires,[23] One of the largest drug busts in 2009.[25] The routs of the drugs were from Uruguay and Argentina via Central alt. South Africa to Northern Italy alt. Turkey to Montenegro.[23] Also, Serbian organized crime experts estimated 10,000 foot soldiers part of 5 major organized crime groups operating in Serbia.[26] A courier package of 5 kilos cocaine was intercepted from Paraguay, 4 Belgraders were arrested.[22]

The busts were part of the Operation Balkan Warrior; an international drug smuggling case that involves mainly the Zemun clan, a name concluded as leader of the drug ring is Željko Vujanović.[21]

In December, 2009, Ivica Dačić said "half of the Serbian sport clubs are led by people with links to organized crime".[27] 21 kilos of heroin ($1,5-million) were found in a Belgrade flat rented by a Montenegrin national. The drugs were brought from Turkey.[28]

In January, 2010, a 20-acre (81,000 m2) lot illegally owned by the Zemun clan was seized at Šilerova Street in Zemun, Belgrade, the clans headquarters.[25] By January 21, The Balkan Warrior Operation included 19 suspects, 9 of whom are in custody, new arrests are Darko Šarić[29] and Goran Soković who are colleagues of Željko Vujanović.[21] Also, the same day, a 8-man crime group involved in stealing of oil over a two-year period from the NIS pipelines, the crude oil was sold through a company, worth several hundred thousands of euros, among the arrested is a member of the MUP.[30]

On February 10, Serbia's top officials said serious daily death threats from the narco-mafia have been directed against President Boris Tadić, Deputy Prime minister and Interior minister Ivica Dačić, Special prosecutor for organized crime Miljko Radisavljević among other top government officials.[20]

On February 18, a group of six robbers from Belgrade were arrested, they had since 2008 stolen more than 10 million RSD from banks, post offices, gas stations, exchange offices and stores. They were all in the ages 18–23.[31]

On February 19, Interior Minister Ivica Dačić said that more than 50 suspects were arrested today in an ongoing operation aimed against financial crime and money laundering conducted in Valjevo, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Šabac, Sremska Mitrovica, Čačak and Sombor.[32]

In March 2010, Stanko Subotić, aka Cane, head of the so-called "Tobacco Mafia" and on an international arrest warrant of Serbia, accused Nebojša Medojević, the Montenegrin party leader of Movement for Change of having organized a manhunt on him. Medojević had claimed that Cane and Darko Šarić had been hiding in a Montenegrin police villa in Žabljak, while Cane said in an interview that he was in Geneva, Switzerland.[33] It is not quite clear why Zoran Đinđić the democratic leader invited his friend Stanko Subotić to invest in Serbia after the downfall of Milošević. If Stanko Subotić was really the head of the Tobacco Mafia, Zoran Đinđić would not have invited him.

In 11 March, a "well-known" entrepreneur was arrested with 1.2 kilograms of heroine meant for resale in Jagodina.[34]

In 19 March, Boris Tadić vowed an all-out war on the Serbian mafia, in particular drug trafficking that is considered the biggest threat in society. Tadić has evidence that Serbian cartels have attempted to penetrate state institutions to destabilise the government. "The latest property seizures prove that those groups have laundered narco money by investing not only into their personal houses and land but also in tourism, factories and distribution of the press," Tadić said.[35]

On 28 March 2010, 2 Bosniaks from Novi Pazar (Serbian citizens) were arrested at the Zagreb Airport with at least 1.7 kilograms of cocaine for the Serbian drug market. The pure cocaine came from Lima, Peru where they had spent the month traveling from Belgrade. The drugs were soaked in their clothes, estimated worth on the streets of Croatia was €70,000.[36]

In April 2010, it was concluded that Darko Šarić's gang had planned an operation against Serbian officials, including the president. Encrypted messages in local newspapers were deciphered by investigators and after long surveillance of the clan it was concluded that several hitmen were to kill Serbian officials of the MUP, BIA and state officials in a synchronized and highly well-coordinated way. The Šarić clan wants to liquidate people that are in their way, after the Balkan Warrior Operation that heavily decreased crime in Serbia and Montenegro.[37]

On May 14, 2010, 3 Serbs who worked security for one of Bolivia's top drug lords were killed in a shootout with rival crime groups, the drug lord was kidnapped.[38]

Interior Minister Ivica Dačić submitted the work report for 2009; the police had uncovered 7 OC groups and arrested 86 people. He said that by the end of 2009 there were 27 registered OC groups active, with each group having more than 200 members.[39]

There is currently an ongoing investigation against Zemun clan members involved in assassinations who claim that Šešelj has ordered the assassination of Tomislav Nikolić.[40]

In 2010 it was revealed that the Šarić gang had, in 2008 and 2009, ousted the 'Ndrangheta from the drug market. With the emergance of the gang on Italian soil, the gang offered better quality cocaine for a lower price, effectively gaining the market from 2007–2009, trafficking cocaine from South America. The Operation Balkan Warrior was successful in Italy, with over 80 people arrested. Two networks were among the arrested, one Italian, with members from Milan and other northern Italian towns, and the other, a Serbian network, with members from Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia. The Serbian network has operatives all over Europe and South America.[41][42]

Groups[edit]

Belgrade neighbourhoods[edit]

The clans have control over wide networks of smaller groups.

Other[edit]

Notable people[edit]

The reign of Slobodan Milošević represented the height of power of Serbian organized crime, when mafiosos and government officials were intertwined. Milošević had criminals work for him in different special units. The role of several Belgrade gangsters was described in the documentary film "Vidimo se u čitulji" ("See You in the Obituary").

Name
Alias
Born/died Title Info Affiliation
Mafiosi
Stevan Marković
"Stevica"
1937–1968 Gangster Alain Delon's bodyguard, his body was found in a garbage dump in the Paris suburbs in October 1968. His death will be the occasion of an attempt to destabilize the highest level of the French state, with accusations against the couple Pompidou. Own gang
Novica (Živković) Jovanović
"Stiv"
1954–1984 Gangster Known as a gentleman robber he and his friend Bruno Sulak the most wanted men of the eighties in France and Europe for a series of spectacular robberies in Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Paris, Lyon, etc... Killed in an ambush by a special unit of the French police, while trying to release from prison his friend Bruno Sulak. Stiv and Bruno were the forerunner of today's pink panther group. Own gang
Ranko Rubežić
"Dač Šulc"
1951–1985 Boss Murdered in February 1985 by four of his own associates: Miroslav "Vuja" Vujisić, Dragan "Dadilja" Popović, Boris Petkov, and Bojan Petrović.
Ljubomir Magaš
"Ljuba Zemunac"
1948–1986 Godfather
Head Boss
A Yugoslav amateur boxer, streetfighter and gangster, during the 1970s and 1980s he operated his own gang in Germany and was killed in 1986 by rival Goran Vuković "Majmun". Own gang
Branislav Matić
"Beli"
1952–1991 Boss One of the closest friends of Giška. He was the owner of 70 auto waste in the largest auto waste in the Netherlands. One of the founders and major financers Serbian Guard. He was killed outside his family home on the doorstep on August 4, 1991. Giška
Đorđe Božović
"Giška"
1955–1991 Boss Killed in Gospić on 15 September 1991 during battle. There are strong indications that he was killed by his own men. Ljuba Zemunac
Aleksandar Knežević
"Knele"
1971–1992 Lieutenant The youngest "star" of the Serbian mafia at the beginning of the 1990s, he was a bodyguard to Serbian politician Vuk Drašković. Knežević was murdered on October 28, 1992 in his room at the "Hyatt" hotel in Belgrade. Voždovac
Giška
Georg Stanković
"Žorž"
1946–1993 Boss One of the infamous mob bosses of the older generation. He was murdered on October 1, 1993 by a sole hitman.
Goran Vuković
"Majmun"
1959–1994 Boss Murdered Ljuba Zemunac outside the court in 1986. Was assassinated alongside mob Dušan Malović in downtown Belgrade on December 12, 1994 Voždovac
Mihajlo Divac 1967–1995 Boss Leader of the Novi Beograd gang at time, he had previously survived a number of murder attempts. In one attempt executor was Luka Bojović. Divac was gunned down in the hall of the Hotel "Putnik", in Belgrade in 1995. Novi Beograd
Božidar Stanković
"Batica"
1969–1996 Georg Stanković's son, he was murdered on June 23, 1996 by a sole hitman.
Zoran Dimitrov
"Žuća"
1966–1996 Had priorly survived a number of assassination attempts, but was killed on October 6, 1996 by a sole hitman. Voždovac
Rade Ćaldović
"Ćenta"
1950–1997 Boss The infamous Belgrade mafioso, was murdered on February 14, 1997 in his car in Belgrade by two assassins.
Darko Ašanin 1959–1998 A Belgrade gangster involved with drugs and killings. His uncle was Pavle Bulatović, the late Defense Minister. Murdered on June 30, 1998, in his cafe "Koloseum" in Dedinje by a sole hitman.
Jusuf Bulić
"Jusa"
1952–1998 Underboss He was clan member of Ljubomir Magas during 1980s, and the owner of FC Zeleznik. One of Arkan's closest friends, killed in 1998. Ljuba Zemunac
Arkan
Zoran Šijan 1964–1999 Boss Former European champion in kick-boxing, so-called leader of Surcin gang of criminals killed on 27 November 1999 at the corner of streets Nemanja and Svetozar Markovic in Belgrade. He was the husband of Serbian Turbo-folk singer Goca Božinovska. Own gang
Surčin
Branislav Lainović
"Dugi"
1955–2000 Boss Founder of the Serbian Volunteer Guard with Giška
Željko Ražnatović
"Arkan"
1952–2000 Head Boss Considered the most powerful criminal in Serbia until his assassination on 15 January 2000 . Own network
Radoslav Trlajić
"Bata Trlaja"
1963–2000 A Belgrade mob boss and a member of the Novi Beograd gang. He was famous for referring to Serbia and Belgrade in the nineties as "a pond too small for so many crocodiles". He was murdered on February 26, 2000 by Mile Luković of the Zemun gang. Own gang
Novi Beograd
Zoran Davidović
"Ćanda"
1972–2000 Murdered by the Zemun clan while returning from the funeral of Branislav Lainović on March 23, 2000.
Milivoje Matović
"Miša Kobra"
1955–2003 Boss Milivoje Matović "Miša Kobra", arrived to Sydney in 1986 and became a known gambler who organized big games. His younger brother Braca owed money to the gang of Žorž Stanković, Žorž sent his son Batica for Miša Kobra whose friend Boža Cvetić threw down the street after he had pointed a gun at them. Batica was deported to Serbia and Braca was killed in the meantime. Žorž was killed in 1993 and his son Batica in 1996. Sydney clan
Dušan Spasojević
"Šiptar"
"Duća"
1968–2003 Head Boss Head of one of the largest Serbian criminal groups on record, the Zemun clan.The peak of this cartel's influence occurred from 2000 until 2003 when Spasojević was killed by Serbian police on March 27, 2003 during a country-wide manhunt initiated after the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić. Zemun clan
Milan Luković
"Kum"
1969–2003 Head Head of one of the largest Serbian criminal groups on record, the Zemun clan. The peak of this cartel's influence occurred from 2000 until 2003 when Luković was killed by Serbian police on March 27, 2003 during a country-wide manhunt initiated after the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić. Zemun clan
Boško Radonjić
"The Yugo"
1943–2011 Godfather Irish American godfather. Died in VMA on May 31, 2011. Irish American Mafia
Rade Rakonjac 1962–2014 Lieutenant Former bodyguard Željko Raznatović Arkan and close friend Luka Bojović. Killed in 2014. Arkan
Sreten Jocić
"Joca Amsterdam"
"Cocaine-King"
1962- Boss
Underboss
One of most known mafiosi, became strongest in Netherlands through his elimination of rivals. He smuggled cocaine from Colombia. He worked under "Duja" Becirovic as underboss in the Belgrade group and became boss after Duja died in 1990 after Bruinsma hired the kill. He smuggled drugs in Bulgaria and was arrested in 2002. In Serbia, he took over companies with the Surčin clan. Jocić was involved in the 2008 car bomb which killed journalist Ivo Pukanić in Zagreb. Belgrade group
Stanko Subotić
"Cane"
1959- Boss Head of the Tobacco Mafia that smuggled cigarettes throughout Europe, allegedly connected with Serbian and Montenegrin officials. Own gang
Tobacco Mafia
Milorad Ulemek
"Legija"
1968- Boss Arkan's Tigers member during the Yugoslav wars, transferred into the Red berets by Milošević, involved in Đinđić murder Arkan
Zemun
Kristijan Golubović 1969- One of the few surviving Belgrade criminals from the 1990s Godson of Ljuba Zemunac
Sretko Kalenić
"Beli"
"Zver"
1974- Member of the Zemun clan, the clan's role was to liquidate the person who orders Dusan Spasojevic Zemun clan
Miloš Simovió 1979- Member of the Zemun clan, accused of involvement in the assassination of premier Zoran Djindjic Zemun clan
Luka Bojović
"Pekar"
1973- Boss
Lieutenant
Arkan's Tigers member and Lieutenant during the Yugoslav wars Arkan
Zemun clan
Vladimir Milisavljević
"Budala"
1976- Member of the Zemun clan, accused of involvement in the assassination of premier Zoran Djindjic Zemun clan
Darko Šarić 1970- Head Boss Own gang
Šarić's clan
Assassinations & connected people
Klaas Bruinsma
"De Lange"
1953–1991 Drug lord A Dutch drug lord killed on June 27, 1991 by Martin Hoogland, a former policeman hired by Joca Amsterdam as a revenge for the killing of Joca's boss, the previous Belgrade group leader Duja.
Radojica Nikčević 1948–1993 Businessman A businessman who is said to have had close ties with the State Security Service, but also with Arkan, who was killed on 7 October 1993. The front of his office in Dedinje. His work takes Arkan godfather Giovanni di Stefano. He was suspected of having ties with the Medellin cartel.  FR Yugoslavia
Radislava Vujasinović
"Dada"
1964–1994 Journalist Reporter for the news magazine Duga. She was found dead in her apartment on April 8, 1994. The police ruled it a suicide, but most evidence disputes this. She was active the day before and made many plans for the future.
Vlada Kovačević
"Tref"
1958–1997 Businessman Businessman and close friend of Marko Milosevic, son of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosević, who was killed on 20 February 1997. The front of the Belgrade Center "Sava". Marko Milošević
Radovan Stojičić
"Badža"
1951–1997 Chief a police chief killed on 10 April 1997 in the pizza parlour "Mama Mia" in Belgrade by a sole hitman. Police
Zoran Todorović
"Kundak"
1959–1997 Businessman
Politician
The Secretary General of the Yugoslav Left was killed on 24 October 1997. in New Beogad, front seat of the company "Beopetrol", which he was director. Mirjana Marković
Slavko Ćuruvija 1949–1999 Journalist, Owner and chief editor of the newspapers The owner of the Belgrade daily "Daily Telegraph" and weekly "European" was killed on 11 April 1999. front of his apartment in Svetogorska street 35, in downtown Belgrade during the NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. The assassination was preceded by an attack on Curuvija in state media. Public Safety accompanied him all day, until just before the murder.
Jill Dando 1961–1999 Journalist English journalist, television presenter and newsreader who worked for the BBC for 14 years. She was murdered by gunshot outside her home in Fulham, West London. Hitman was sent form FR Yugoslavia.
Zoran Uskoković
"Skole"
1963–2000 Businessman a Belgrade businessman, was murdered on April 27, 2000 by members of the Zemun clan.
Branislav Lainović
"Dugi"
1955–2000 Businessman Businessman from Novi Sad. Murdered in Belgrade on March 21, 2000 by Miloš Simović of the Zemun gang.
Momir Gavrilović 1959–2001 Deputy Chief
(Retired)
was killed by Milorad Ulemek "Legija" and the Zemun clan in an attempt to damage Zoran Đinđić's administration by convincing the public that he was killed for delivering "evidence" of government ties with the criminals. Sretko Kalinić's, the number one hitman of the Zemun clan, DNA was found on the murder spot. Zvezdan Jovanović was asked to carry out the assassination. BIA
Smail Tarić 1981–2008 Beheaded because of his connections with the police by two members of the Berane Clan, Velibor Brkić and Milos Rašić.[43]
Danilo Radonjić 1948–2011 Businessman One of many businessmen during the 1990s. The first assassination attempt on him was made back in 1985 when Andrija Lakonjić Laki tried to kill him in front of restaurant "Sabor" at Belgrade Fair. He was killed on September 6, 2011, by a professional hitman.[44]
Boško Raičević 1971–2012 Businessman He was a "relative and associate" of Andrija Drašković - who was put on trial and found guilty for the murder of a member of the Surčin Clan organized crime group. He was killed by the blast that destroyed his car.[45]
Radojica Joksović
"Joksa"
1980–2012 Businessman He was "the key witness" in the case against the Darko Šarić, while reports described the two as "friends since elementary school". He was killed by the blast that destroys his car.[46]
Nikola Bojović 1974–2013 Brother of Luka Bojović He was the younger brother of one of the bosses of Zemun Clan, Luka, who is under arrest in Spain. He was killed on April 29, 2013, by professional hitman.[47]

Activity outside Serbia[edit]

The Pink Panthers international jewel thief network is responsible for some of the most audacious thefts in criminal history.[48] They are responsible for what have been termed some of the most glamorous heists ever, with their crimes being thought of as "artistry" even by criminologists.[49] They have targeted several countries and continents, and include Japan's most successful robbery ever amongst their thefts.

Interpol believes that the group are responsible for US$130 million in bold robberies in Dubai, Switzerland, Japan, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Monaco. They are believed to be responsible for the robbery of the jewellery store Harry Winston in Paris, on December 9, 2008. The thieves escaped with more than 80 million worth of jewellery.[50] The total worth of jewellery that has been stolen by the Pink Panthers was 250 million € in May, 2010.[51]

Australia[edit]

The first Serbian mafiosi came to Australia in the late 70s, organized in a Yugoslav clan, their headquarters were some 15 kafanas in Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne.[6]

In the 80s the Serbian Mafia was reinforced with the arrival of Serbian immigrants.

Milivoje Matović "Miša Kobra", arrived to Sydney in 1986 and became a known gambler who organized big games. His younger brother Braca owed money to the gang of Žorž Stanković, Žorž sent his son Batica for Miša Kobra whose friend Boža Cvetić threw down the street after he had pointed a gun at them. Batica was deported to Serbia and Braca was killed in the meantime. Žorž was killed in 1993 and his son Batica in 1996.[6]

In 2005 interviews with Australian Serbs, it was said some 20 Zemun clan members operated in Australia at the time, double the number working prior to Operation Sablja.[6] Serbian boxer Božidar Cvetić who in 2002 was stabbed,[52] now worked as a bouncer in Australia said that Australian police had shown him pictures of some 150 Serbian criminals active in Australia.[6]

In May 2007, Australian police saw recruitment to organized crime motorcycle gangs from young Serbs.[53]

Austria[edit]

The Serbian Mafia was the main operators of drug trafficking and cigarette smuggling in Austria in 2004 and Austria was the home to many Serbian gangs.[54]

On October 27, 1978 Veljko Krivokapić secretly met with Ljubomir Magaš, a member of the gang he had just left, at the Zur Hauptpost coffee house in Vienna. Magaš and another Yugoslav, Rade Caldović, grabbed Krivokapić and fractured his skull with a glass bottle.

Involvement with Corsican gangsters in late 1960s.

The Pink Panthers have operated in Austria.[55]

Belgium[edit]

In 1990, Kosovo Albanian Human Rights Activist Enver Hadri is assassinated in Brussels by Veselin Vukotić, Andrija Lakonić, and Darko Ašanin, at the time hired by the UDBA (Yugoslav intelligence).

Bosnia[edit]

The Serbian Mafia is the largest organized crime group in Bosnia & Herzegovina with operations from the entity of Republic of Srpska.

The Zemun clan is active in Bosnia.[56]

Bulgaria[edit]

From 1994-1997 Zemun clan leader Dusan Spasojevic used heroin supplies channels through Sofia.

In 1997, 350 kilos of heroin was seized at the Serbian-Bulgarian border.[11]

Sreten Jocić (Joca Amsterdam) escaped custody in Netherlands in 1993, he left for Bulgaria where he would continue his drug smuggling under the pseudonym "Marko Milosavljevic".[3] He was arrested in 2002 and extradited to Netherlands.[3]

One Macedonian national and 2 Bulgarians were arrested during the Operation Moonlight linked with the Zemun clan; they trafficked cocaine from Bolivia.[57]

Zemun clan member Nenad Milenković "Milenko" was arrested in 2003 at the Varna resort, following the international warrant by the Serbian police after Operation Sablja. He was suspected of orchestrating at least 3 murders in Bulgaria and some 20 in Serbia.[58]

The Zemun clan successfully managed the drug traffic from Bulgaria after 2003, taking over the market from Surcin-associate Sreten Jocić.[59]

Bulgarian tycoon Iliya Pavlov was murdered by Serbian Mafia in 2004 it is believed. He owed 250 million dollars to the Milosevic regime.[60]

Croatian hitman Robert Matanic and his colleagues were hired by the Zemun clan to kill people of the concurrenting Bulgarian Mafia for the Balkan drug route. Dimitar Hristov, Kaloyan Savov and Zhivko Mitev were killed in a shootout on June 4, 2004. Matanic and his men were hired by Milcho Bonev as bodyguards after friends of Matanic introduced by his Serbian friends in the Zemun clan.[61][62] Milcho Bonev was assassinated in 2004, believed to be organized by the Serbian Mafia.[63]

In September 2007, a believed internal feud resulted in the death of Jovica Lukic, the critical wounding of 2 other men, a mother and her baby. The men were all members of the Zemun clan.[64]

Former Litex president Angel Bonchev had business with the Zemun clan. He was kidnapped in 2008.[65]

The Zemun clan is active in Bulgaria.[56]

Croatia[edit]

The murder of Croatian publisher and founder of weekly "Nacional" Ivo Pukanić and his marketing chief Niko Franjić in 2008 was ordered by Sreten Jocić who hired Željko Milovanović, a former Red Berets member who bombed the car of the publisher with the help of Milenko Kuzmanović. Pukanic had ties to Balkan criminals.[66] All three were arrested by the Serbian police.

Czech Republic[edit]

In the 1990s, Serbian organised groups were one of the leading syndicates operating in the Czech Republic.[67] A letter was sent to Czech newspapers containing information on a supposed future assassination of President Havel by 5 members (Vaso, Krule, Draza, and Micko) and their whereabouts, the letter was written in broken Czech, thought by the Police to be sent by a rival gang.[67]

Denmark[edit]

The Serbian-Danish actor Slavko Labović, who played Radovan in the movie Pusher, was arrested, along with his brother, for possession of illegal arms (loaded gun) in Sweden. He was the director of the RK Company in Denmark,[68] an illegal gambling company owned by Rade Kotur (Spelkungen, The Gambling King) a known figure in Sweden who hired the murder of Ratko Đokić.[68] During the trial of Rade Kotur,Slavko Labović came to support Kotur.[68]

Finland[edit]

Human trafficking and Illegal immigration was growing in Finland orchestrated by Serbian Organized crime groups in 2004 (alongside Chinese triads).[54]

France[edit]

Known in French as Mafia Serbe.

In 1962, Stevica Marković, Miša Milošević and Radovan Delić arrived in Paris, were part of the "Garderodameri" that was formed in 1966 with the arrival of Marko Nicovic.[2]

Harry Winston

The Pink Panthers have operated in France. In October 2008, police officials in Monaco arrested two members of the gang, a Serb and a Bosnian Serb. The gang is suspected of jewellery and gems theft at Harry Winston for an estimated value of up to 80 million Euros or 105 million US dollars.[69]

Greece[edit]

Kristijan Golubović operated in Greece

After the Yugoslav wars, Kristijan Golubović worked in Greece. In 2002 he escaped from Malandrino, a Greek prison where he was serving a 14 and a half years sentence for stealing two Mercedes-Benz cars and an armed robbery.

In December 2009, two Serbs were arrested suspected of involvement of a major group smuggling cocaine from Peru to Montenegro on luxury yachts. The American DEA helped the Greek police to track the smuggling for 5 months. 2 other Serbs are wanted in Serbia.[70]

Germany[edit]

Known in German as the German: Serbische Mafia, Jugoslawische Mafia.

The Serbian Mafia was the main operator of cigarette smuggling in Germany in 2004.[54]

  • Ljubomir Magaš "Ljuba Zemunac" ("Ljuba from Zemun"), "The Godfather", is considered as the ultimate boss of the Serbian mafia at the time. He was killed by two shots to the heart from close range in front of the courthouse in Frankfurt, Germany in 1986 by Goran Vuković "Majmun".
  • Goran Vuković "Majmun" ("Monkey"), who is most famous for killing Ljubomir Magaš, survived five murder attempts following the killing of Ljubomir Magaš before he was assassinated in downtown Belgrade in broad daylight in 1994. He was a member of the Vozdovac clan.

Slobodan Grbović "Slobo" left Italy for Germany in the 1970s and became friends with Vaso Letećeg, a thief from Belgrade. In 1981 this friendship ended when they feuded over money, Slobo shot his patron Vaso and went to prison, Vaso survived.[2]

In 1980, Branislav Saranovic, escapes the Wuppertal prison with the help of the Ljuba Zemunac gang who blew up a prison wall.

In February, 1988, Rade Caldovic is appointed the leader in Germany after good relations with the Italian Mafia in Milano. He becomes friend with Greek businessman Mihail Sainidis who owns over 15 casinos in southern Germany. On 30 March, Zoran Lucic, a Belgrade gangster kills an Albanian rival in Frankfurt.

In the 1990s, the underground of former Eastern Germany was controlled by Italian, German, Russian, Vietnamese and Serbian organized groups.[71] Leipzig was the centre of money laundering, smuggling, prostitution and protection rackets due to the weak system.[71] The most profitable operations of the groups from former Yugoslavia was car thefts, luxury cars were stolen in Germany and sold to Eastern Europe, North Africa and Far East.[71]

Andrija Drašković, an heir to Arkan's syndicate following his assassination, was arrested by German police in Frankfurt after four years on the run from the Italian Anti-Organized Crime Unit. Drašković is believed to have organized the murder of his former boss Arkan.[72]

The Pink Panthers have made jewellery robberies in Germany[55]

Hungary[edit]

The main organized crime groups in Hungary in 2004 were the Bulgarian and Serbian Mafia.[54]

Italy[edit]

Dado Cerović "Metko" was the most powerful of Yugoslav criminals in Milano before moving to Genova. Bole Grčić "Bembe" and Miša Begonja "Glava Ciganin" were left of his entourage in Milano.[2]

In 1971 Ljubomir Magas arrived in Milano with "Dača" and he settled in Milan. His friend Rade Caldovic "Centa" was shot in his stomach in Verona by rival Bata Glavac, Caldovic later went to prison in Rome. The Yugoslav mafia in Milano was formed by Ljubomir Magas, Rade Caldovic, Veljko Krivokapic, Slobodan Grbović "Slobo Crnogorac", Milan Civija, Dule Milanovic, Mile Ojdanic, Sava Somborac, Pera Oziljak, Marinko Magda, Arkan, Djordje Bozovic "Giška". They did holdups, murders and burglaries in Trieste, Rome and Milano.[2]

Dragomir Petrović "Zmaj" (called Drago lo Slavo, Drago the Slav in Italian) was a Serbian gangster who found his way to Milano, he was connected with a godfather of the Italian Mafia in Calabria. He was involved with gambling, bank and jewellery robberies.[2]

Later an influx of gangsters from SR Montenegro strengthened the Yugoslav position in the Italian underworld. Vlasto Petrović "Crnogorac", Đorđe Božović and Darko Ašanin were connected with mafiosi operating from Montenegro; Branko and Slobo Šaranović, Brano Mićunović and Ratko Djokić, Sarajevo; Miša Martinović, Zagreb; Marko Vlahović. In the same time Slobodan Grbović "Slobo Crnogorac" left for Germany and teamed up with Vaso Letećeg, a thief from Belgrade.[2]

During the 1990s the 'Ndrangheta acquired weapon arsenal (Bazookas, explosives, automatic firearms) built in Serbia, imported through firms outside Italy.[71]

From 1994-2000 illegal cigarette smuggling in Italy was operated by the Serbian Mafia together with the Italian Mafia.[10]

Zemun clan member Ninoslav Konstantinovic fled Netherlands to Italy after his brother was arrested in 2003. In Italy he became a leading heroin distributor and professional hitman, working for the Italian Mafia in Naples, he is recognized as highly skilled as many of his fellow Zemun clan members are known throughout Europe. His assassinations are known to be brutal and ruthless executions.[56]

In May 2009, Vladimir Jovanović, a former Zemun clan member and Interpol wanted was arrested in Italy.[73]

The presence of Serbian OC groups, among others, have increased rapidly the later years because of the badly controlled coastline.[74]

Luxemburg[edit]

International burglary networks were present in 2004, mainly from Southeastern Europe (the Balkans).[54]

Montenegro[edit]

Montenegro was in a state union with Serbia (Serbia & Montenegro, former FR Yugoslavia) from 1991-2006.

The Serbian Mafia is the leading criminal group in Montenegro. Many of the Belgrade crime groups that were not caught during Operation Sablja hid in Montenegro.

The Zemun clan is active in Montenegro.[56]

Netherlands[edit]

There has been a number of unsolved murder cases in Rotterdam that have been linked to the activities of Serbian Organized Crime gangs. In recent years the Serbian mafia has been growing strong in the Netherlands. In 2004, the Ecstasy and Heroin of Netherlands originated from the Balkan region, Serbian organized crime groups dominated the auto theft-smuggling.[1][54]

  • Sreten Jocić ("Joca Amsterdam"), is a hitman and a drug dealer. He is considered the leader for the Serbian mafia in Amsterdam.

On Christmas Eve, 1974, Slobodan Mitric killed 3 alleged UDBA members in Kafana "Mostar" in Amsterdam.

In 1977, Emilio Di Giovine was wounded and 2 of his men killed by rival Yugoslavs.

On 24 October 1979, Arkan, Slobodan Kostovski and an Italian are arrested while robbing a jewelry store in Amsterdam, they had days earlier robbed a jeweller in Hague and were sought in several countries. On 8 May 1981, Arkan escaped from the Bijlmerbajes prison in Amsterdam with Italian Sergio Settimo, one of the most sought criminals in Europe.

In 1992, a member of the Chinese Triad is killed after a debt to the Serbian Mafia.

The Serbian OC groups have become stronger and has superseded the Russian Mafia in Netherlands and the arms trade is shared by Serbian and Turkish groups.[74]

Norway[edit]

Non-Norwegian gangs and Organized Crime groups came to dominate Norway's drug trade in the 1980s. During the 1990s Norway saw a large influx of Yugoslavs seeking refugee status due to the conflict in the Balkan region.

Slovenia[edit]

A growing trend of human trafficking by Balkan organized crime groups in 2004, Serbian organized crime operated the cigarette smuggling and arms trafficking.[54] Serbian Mafia is the strongest organized group in Slovenia.

Spain[edit]

A growing trend of auto theft was seen by Southeastern European organized crime groups in 2004, Serbian organized crime groups saw a growth in Spain.[54]

Sweden[edit]

Known in Swedish as: Serbiska maffian, Jugoslaviska maffian, Juggemaffian, or Serbiska Brödraskap. And more specifically known as the Serbian Brotherhood encompassing territory from Sweden to Denmark.

The Serbian mafia or Serbian Brotherhood in Sweden was said to be the top criminal organisation, but its influence has declined since the deaths of several leading figures.

A war was fought over the control of the trade of narcotics and cigarettes between Serbian Organized Crime leaders which resulted in Joksa's and Ratko Đokić's deaths.

Individuals associated to Serbian Organized Crime in Sweden:

  • Ratko Đokić "The Godfather", arms dealer and cigarette smuggler, he was murdered May 5, 2003 by Serbian hitmen hired by Rade Kotur, another notorious Serbian criminal.
  • Dragan "Jokso" Joksović, notorious gambler and assumed cigarette smuggler, was murdered February 4, 1998 in Solvalla, Stockholm by a Finnish hitman hired by "Kova". He was a close friend of Arkan and is said to have helped Arkan on many occasions. Arkan and many other known mafia figures attended his funeral. As revenge, "Kova" was later killed in front of 60 guests at the order of Arkan.
  • Milan Ševo, declared to be the last Head of the Serbian mafia in Sweden. He has survived many murder attempts and in 2004 he escaped from prison. He is married to Ratko Đokić's daughter. It is believed that he has connections with Swedish Hells Angels MC. He is currently living in Serbia where he is a successful businessman.

Sweden saw a large influx of ethnic Serbs during the 60s and 70s, when the "Arbetskraftsinvandring" took place; The labour force of immigrants who were granted citizenship (similar to Gastarbeiter programme). In the 1980s the Serbs were the main operators of drug smuggling in Sweden.[75]

During the 90s a war on the cigarette trade was fought between factions of the Serbian Mafia in Sweden, it resulted in many deaths of top figures.

On March 15, 2003, a Colombian hitman hired by a rivaling gang failed an attempted assassination of Ševo and his companions at a K-15 fighting gala.

In 2003, in a storage room located in the Vårby Gård suburbs, the Swedish police found silenced firearms; Ak47's Uzi's and MP5's, bombs; grenades, plastic explosives and mines.[76] The arsenal was used by the Serbian Mafia in Sweden, the owner of the storage was Milan Ševo, the son-in-law of Ratko Đokić, the former head of Mafia; the title soon inherited by Ševo.

On May 5, 2003, Ratko Đokić was assassinated outside his Boxing club in Skärholmen. One of the hitmen, Nenad Mišović, was arrested in Europe years later. Mišović came to Sweden in 2002 after fleeing the police in Serbia. He was hired by Rade Kotur, a rival of Đokić[68]

In 2004, the Serbian Mafia dominated the organized crime in Sweden, known uncovered operations were doping substances.[54]

One of the chapters in the "Svensk Maffia" (Swedish Mafia)-book follows the history of the Serbian mafia in Sweden from the 1960s to modern time.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić claims that former members of the paramilitary Red Berets took part in the 2009 Västberga helicopter robbery one of the most spectacular heists in the history. One month prior to the robbery, the Swedish Embassy was allegedly given "certain information about a criminal group which was preparing a robbery" by Serbian police.[77]

Switzerland[edit]

Arkan was arrested in Bern, 1982, but escaped from the police station.

United Kingdom[edit]

On June 2, 2009, six Serbs were convicted together with several Israelis for their role in a major smuggling of 12.5 ton (£36m) marijuana, orchestrated by the Israeli mafia.[78] The marijuana was seized as it travelled from Larache, Morocco to Southampton on a tugboat under an Israeli flag.[79]

The Pink Panthers have operated in London.[55]

United States[edit]

There has been known involvement of Balkan crime groups in the United States.

One of the most notorious Serbs was Boško Radonjić, leader of the Irish-American organized crime group "the Westies", from 1988-1992. He reestablished the relations with the Gambino family under John Gotti.

In popular culture[edit]

The Serbian Mafia has appeared in a number of films and video games. They have appeared in:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Glenny, M. (2008). McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld
  • (Serbian) Lopusina, Marko (2003). Srpska Mafija (Serbian Mafia)

External links[edit]