Darko Saric, who has been described as “the biggest drug baron in the Balkans”, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking.
The Belgrade Supreme Court sentenced Saric to 15 years in prison for smuggling some 5.7 tons of cocaine from Latin America into Europe. Darko Sokovic, who was tried in the same case and alleged to be one of the organisers of the criminal enterprise, was also sentenced to 15 years. Zeljko Vujanovic was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Three of the defendants were sentenced to 5 to 10 months imprisonment after they agreed to cooperate with the court and 18 defendants were sentenced to 10 to 13 years in prison. In total, Saric’s gang was handed some 300 years of prison time.
Saric, 49, who was extradited to Serbia following his arrest in Montenegro in 2014, was sentenced to 20 years in prison at the Belgrade Special Court in 2015, but this decision was overturned by the appeals court on the grounds that the sentence was rendered in accordance with an old law which had since been updated. Under the new sentencing provisions the manufacturing and sale of narcotics carries a maximum term of 15 years.
In addition to the smuggling charges, Saric also faces trial for laundering some 22 million euros from the proceeds of crime in a range of businesses in Serbia. Included among the evidence that led to Saric’s conviction were wiretapped conversations in which gang members were recorded discussing crimes, as well as testimony by one of Saric’s own lieutenants.
According to the Associated Press, Saric’s lawyer Radoslav Bacovic intends to appeal the verdict again, insisting the court has not reviewed most of the complaints related to the original conviction.
“We’ll appeal the verdict, Bacovic said. “The impression is that the court simply copied the prosecutor’s indictment.”
Saric’s gang established themselves as the one of the Europe’s largest drug importers by purchasing high-quality cocaine directly from producers in Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina which they then distributed through Balkan networks to Western Europe.