HomeNewsAnalysisArrested Serb Highlights South America’s Balkan Connection
ANALYSIS

Arrested Serb Highlights South America's Balkan Connection

ARGENTINA / 15 SEP 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Argentina's request to extradite a Serbian crime boss provides insight into the Balkan mafia's long tentacles in Latin America -- a group that, over the years, has become one of Europe's main drug trafficking syndicates.

Zoran Jaksic was arrested in July 2016 in Tumbes department, Peru, while attempting to cross the border into Ecuador. The Serbian national is allegedly a leading member of "Group America" or "America Group," an Eastern European criminal organization that traffics drugs from South America across the Atlantic.

Following Jaksic's capture, Argentine Federal Judge Morón Juan Pablo Salas requested the 57-year-old's extradition, PERFIL was told by official sources. The judge had also requested Jaksic's capture back in September 2008, accusing the Serbian national of being the head of an organization that trafficked liquid cocaine to Europe, PERFIL reported.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of European Organized Crime

Evidence of Jaksic's criminal activities in Argentina had begun to emerge the previous year, when a Brazilian drug mule was arrested in Ezeiza airport. With time, detectives discovered that Jaksic had created a criminal structure that would buy cocaine from Peru and Ecuador, turn it into liquid form and export it to Europe by sea in "San Juan" wine bottles. He is suspected of smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine into the Netherlands and Belgium.

An international operation against the network forced Jaksic to flee Argentina. He was arrested in Madrid in 2009 and later extradited to Greece. The Serbian was released, however, and later returned to South America, PERFIL reported.

Peruvian authorities are investigating Jaksic's possible ties to drug traffickers operating out of one of Peru's key drug exit ports, Callao, including the detained crime boss Gerald Oropeza.

Various countries had issued arrest warrants for the Serbian convict, who reportedly had over 40 false identities and multiple passports.

InSight Crime Analysis

Jaksic appears to have been an important South American connection for the Balkan crime group as they move their cocaine trafficking operations closer to the source. Eastern European groups have been trafficking drugs from South America across the Atlantic for decades, but since 2004 have step up their role in the international trade, Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) journalist Stevan Doj?inovi? told InSight Crime.

Around that time, numerous Balkan traffickers, including Serbians and Montenegrins, came together and began working to transport bigger shipments -- of tons of drugs per month -- from South America, Doj?inovi? said. Today, the Serbians and Montenegrins form one of the main trafficking groups in Europe.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Criminal Migration

Despite the arrest of some of their top criminal bosses, the Balkans continue to run an intricate network that spreads over multiple continents and connects various criminal organizations around the world. The traffickers mainly buy drugs from Peruvians -- their closest contacts -- Colombians and Bolivians, Doj?inovi? explained. They then ship around 2 metric tons at a time directly to Europe or via South Africa. Spain, the Netherlands and Greece are among their main ports of entry in Europe.

A large part of the drugs are then moved to Italy. The Balkans have a good relationship with the local mafia, who allow them to use the country to sell cocaine to other European organizations in large quantities.

For a long time, the leading figure of the Balkan mafia in South America was Darko Saric, a Serbian-Montenegrin who was accused of trafficking 5.7 metric tons of cocaine to Europe. Saric's organization was estimated to make up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) a year operating routes through Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and had ties to Russian, Italian and Colombian crime syndicates. After four years in hiding, Saric turned himself in to Serbian authorities in 2014 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison the following year.

Saric was believed to have ties to Group America, which is one of the Balkans' South American networks. This organization has been smuggling cocaine into Europe from the early 1990s and has several leaders -- although Jaksic is not one of them, Doj?inovi? told InSight Crime. The OCCRP reporter explained that Jaksic is allegedly the right-hand man of a Serbian boss known as Mileta Miljanic, who is based in New York City and is a US citizen.

Another important Balkan associate in the Southern Cone was Goran Nesic, alias "Ciga," who worked both with Saric and Group America. Nesic was reportedly Serbia's main criminal boss in Brazil, where he spent years supplying drugs to Balkan crime syndicates. He was arrested in the South American nation in 2011.

While Serbian-Montenegrin traffickers have upped their status in South America over the past decade, it is unlikely that they have supplanted the Italian mafia's local operations, which have been around for decades and span all of Latin America and the Caribbean. A recent EU report still places Colombian and Italian criminal groups at the forefront of cocaine trafficking to Europe.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 20 APR 2012

While Mexican drug gangs, particularly the Zetas, are known to have expanded into human trafficking in Mexico, there is little…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 28 MAR 2014

Authorities in Mexico have arrested an alleged member of an Eastern European mafia organization who led a drug trafficking network…

ARGENTINA / 24 FEB 2011

Argentina narrowly avoided sanctions Wednesday for its failure to tackle money laundering, reflecting growing international concern about drug trafficking profits…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.