Kosovo police arrest suspected drugs kingpin

AP News
Posted: May 06, 2013 10:42 AM

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo police have arrested a suspected Balkan drug kingpin who is wanted on an international arrest warrant and blacklisted by U.S. authorities.

Naser Kelmendi, 56, is a Kosovo-born ethnic Albanian businessman who police say allegedly runs a major cocaine and heroin organization from a family-owned hotel in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

Special organized crime police arrested Kelmendi late Sunday in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, police spokesman Brahim Sadriu said Monday. A second suspect was arrested for aiding Kelmendi, he said.

Police also raided two houses believed to have been used by the suspects and confiscated two cars.

Last year the U.S. Treasury put Kelmendi on a list that bars U.S. citizens from doing business with him and allows authorities to freeze any of his U.S. assets.

It was not immediately clear if Kelmendi, a Bosnian citizen, will be extradited to Bosnia, where authorities want him as part of an investigation into at least six murders, illegal money transfers and drug trafficking. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Bosnia does not recognize Kosovo as a state and has no direct contact with it.

The arrest comes as Kosovo seeks to show it is able to fight criminal networks, part of conditions it must meet to eventually join the European Union. The former Serbian province has often come under strong criticism for not clamping down on its ethnic Albanian gangsters.

Organized crime flourished in the lawless Balkans during the wars in the 1990s. The area remains a major transit route for smuggling drugs and cigarettes into the 27-nation EU.