Serbian Court Sentences Montenegro’s Mafia Clan Leader in Absentia

Published: 15 September 2022

Zvicer-Sud-Novi-Sad-foto-KRIKLeader of the Kavač clan, Radoje Zvicer (L) remains at large, while a court in Novi Sad (R) sentenced him in absentia for using forged documents and a fake identity. (Photo: KRIK)

By Zdravko Ljubas

A court in Serbia sentenced the leader of one of Montenegro's two most notorious drug-smuggling gangs, the Kavač criminal clan, to two years and five months in prison for using forged documents and a fake identity.

The Higher Court in Novi Sad on Tuesday delivered the verdict against Radoje Zvicer, and also sentenced police officer Milenko Đukić to two years and three months in prison for providing the crime boss with biometric documents that contained other people’s data, the court said in a statement.

The crime took place between February 2015 and March 2017 in the cities of Novi Sad and Temerin, according to the court’s statement.

Radoje Zvicer was sentenced in absentia. He has been on the run since Serbia and Montenegro issued international warrants against him in 2020.

With his whereabouts unknown, Zvicer remains the most mysterious leader of one of the two Montenegrin clans.

The Kavač and the Škaljari clans both hail from Kotor, on Montenegro’s picturesque Adriatic coast. They were once part of the same gang smuggling drugs from South America into Europe, but split in 2014 after a cocaine deal in Spain went bad, creating a violent rift that has deepened ever since — and pulled in other Serbian and Montenegrin crime groups.

The Serbian branch of the Kavač clan, led by Veljko Belivuk, aka Velja Nevolja (Velja the Trouble) used horrific methods against its rivals, including making the bodies of their victims disappear in an industrial meat grinder.

They allegedly used the grinder in a house depicted as a “house of horrors” near Belgrade. To prove to their leader Zvicer that the “problem” was solved, Belivuk’s gang would allegedly send him sausages made of the victim’s meat.

At the same time, Montenegro wants Zvicer for allegedly organizing a criminal group tasked with the assassination of the leader of the oponent criminal clan – the Škaljari. Jovan Vukotić, was killed in Istanbul last week by an unknown person who shot at him from a motorcycle while he was in his car with his wife and daughter.

Vukotić allegedly assumed supreme command of the Škaljari clan when his predecessor, Igor Dedović, was slain in Greece in January 2020 while dining with his wife and children in an Athens restaurant.

Vukotić was also accused of inciting the murder of his rivals – the leaders of the Kavač clan, Radoje Zvicer and Slobodan Kašćelan. He was allegedly offering four million euro (US$3.99 million) for their assassinations.

In 2016, Vukotić allegedly tried to kill Zvicer’s wife Tamara. He fired several shots at a vehicle with her and her daughter in it but the bullets missed the two.

Assassins targeted Zvicer himself several times too.

In May, 2020, four internationally wanted contract killers, believed to be hired by the Škaljari, tried to assassinate Zvicer in Ukraine, where he was based at the time.

He was badly injured in the attack but not killed, probably thanks to his wife who shot back at the attackers and forced them to flee - a moment local security cameras recorded.

Less that a year later, the Bosnian police and intelligence said they prevented a possible assassination by arresting three people suspected of an attempt against Zvicer’s family, who was vacationing at a ski resort near Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo.

The blood trail of the conflict between the clans runs through the Balkans and beyond, with dozens of killings in Spain, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Greece, according to an OCCRP investigation published two years ago.