Ending a decade-long trial, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed on Monday the 15-year prison sentence for Serbian drug lord Darko Šarić who headed a gang that smuggled nearly six tonnes of cocaine from South America to Europe.
Šarić’s group is believed to have made 22 million euros (US$25.88 million) from the cocaine deals.
Šarić’s closest associate, Goran Soković, who remains at large, was also sentenced to 15 years behind bars, while 15 other members of the group received sentences ranging from five months to 14 years. Two gang members were acquitted while the criminal charges against another two were quashed due to the statute of limitation.
Serbian law enforcement agencies dismantled Šarić’s group in the “Balkan Warrior” operations in 2009 and 2010, when they arrested a number of his associates, but not Šarić. Šarić turned himself in voluntarily in March 2014.
The elusive drug lord allegedly operated for years in several countries. It is believed his success was partly due to his strong connections with several powerful Serbian and Montenegrin businessmen and officials.
Šarić and members of his group were first sentenced in 2015, when the drug lord received the maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. The Court of Appeal annulled the ruling a year later and ordered a retrial.
Another sentence was delivered in 2018, when Šarić was sent behind bars for 15 years, which, following the appeal of his lawyers, the Belgrade appeal court confirmed on Monday.
Šarić and his group are being separately tried for laundering at least 20 million euro ($23.5 million) they allegedly made from cocaine smuggling.
For this, Šarić was sentenced earlier this year to nine years in jail, but has appealed and is waiting for the appellate court ruling.