Court Annuls Verdict in Serbian Drug Lord’s Cocaine Smuggling Case

Published: 17 June 2021

Darko SaricDarko Šarić, Serbian drug lord. (Photo: KRIK)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Citing procedural errors, Serbia's Supreme Court of Cassation annulled on Tuesday the final ruling against Serbian drug lord Darko Šarić and other cocaine smugglers, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals.

The Court said Wednesday in a statement that the second-instance verdict had “significantly violated the provisions of the criminal procedure” because the judges who extended Šarić’s detention in the same case already saw him as someone who had committed a criminal offense.

Those judges “formed a preconception of such a quality that it represents a circumstance that violates the presumption of impartiality of a judge, and in this particular case the impartiality of the functional nature of these judges was called into question,” the Court said.

With this ruling, the Supreme Court of Cassation actually adopted an unprecedented legal remedy - a request for protection of legality, which Šarić's defense had made in December 2020, asking for the annulment of the final verdict in the cocaine smuggling case.

The evidence, based on which Šarić and his group were sentenced, was not found as being questionable, according to OCCRP Serbian partner Krik.

The Court of Appeal in Belgrade in November confirmed the 15-year-long prison sentence for Šarić, who headed a gang that smuggled nearly six tons of cocaine from South America to Europe.

The cocaine trades are thought to have netted Šarić’s group 22 million euros (US$26.44 million).

In the “Balkan Warrior” operations in 2009 and 2010, Serbian law enforcement dismantled Šarić’s group, arresting a number of his associates, but not Šarić, who surrendered voluntarily in March 2014.

The elusive drug lord allegedly operated for years in a number of countries. His success is thought to be attributed in part to his excellent contacts with various influential Serbian and Montenegrin businessmen and officials.

Šarić and members of his group were first sentenced in 2015, when he 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 the Belgrade appeal court confirmed.