Dozens indicted in Bosnia in one of biggest post-war crime busts

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 7:53 AM
Dozens indicted in Bosnia in one of biggest post-war crime busts

By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Thirty-two people were indicted in Bosnia on Wednesday for a string of murders and bank robberies in what prosecutors hailed as one of the biggest crackdowns on organized crime since the 1992-95 war.

The crimes stretch back over the past decade and illustrate how criminals from across Bosnia's ethnic divide have managed to work together while ethnic bickering on the political level has stalled the country's bid to join the European mainstream.

They include three armed attacks on security vans transporting bank cash and a raid on a post office in the capital, Sarajevo, in which robbers made off with a total of $6.8 million.

The perpetrators used police vehicles and uniforms to disguise themselves. Among the 32 indicted are three former police officers.

The indictments stem from a police sweep that began in September last year, codenamed Lutka (Doll).

Twenty-five were arrested in September last year and more followed over next 12 months. Most are in custody and some are free on bail.

"With this indictment, five grave, unresolved murders in East (mainly Serb) Sarajevo have been clarified, as well as several robberies that had been unexplained for years," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

"The indictment is among the most extensive indictments relating to organized crime cases in post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina," it said, referring to the 1995 U.S.-brokered peace deal in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the Bosnian war.

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The accused appeared to be mainly Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks (Muslims). Several were citizens of neighboring Serbia, the statement said.

Operation Lutka initially targeted alleged Balkan crime boss Naser Kelmendi in connection with the 2007 murder of a Sarajevo former warlord. Kelmendi fled and was arrested in May this year in his native Kosovo on a warrant issued in Bosnia.

Kelmendi, an ethnic Albanian with Bosnian citizenship, is on a U.S. list of suspected international drug kingpins. He remains in custody in Kosovo as the two countries do not have an extradition agreement.

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Mark Heinrich)