Europol Assists Bosnia in Busting a Criminal Ring

Published: 16 May 2023

Europol Sarajevo OpLarge sums of money seized during an operation targeting a drug trafficking gang in the Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital Sarajevo. (Photo: Europol, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Bosnia and Herzegovina's law enforcement dismantled a cocaine gang that was uncovered thanks to the decryption of the covert Sky ECC application - a communication app EU law enforcement managed to crack and get access to conversations between various criminals, including Europe’s drug gangs.

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation - Europol - said Monday that the group transported cocaine from South America to Europe on ships and private planes, often hidden in coal or cans of tuna.

During the operation that was executed last week, police in Sarajevo, the country's capital, raided 30 houses and 10 companies and offices, and arrested seven people suspected of corruption, money laundering, and drug trafficking.

The Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that some of those arrested were also suspected of organized crime and abuse of office.

Police also seized large sums of cryptocurrency in various forms as well as "247 crypto mining machines with a total value of over one million euros ($1.08 million)."

The capture included some 100,000 euros ($108,716) cash in various currencies, about 150,000 euros ($163,078) in bank accounts, jewelry, and luxurious watches, five high-end vehicles, four pistols, and 300 pieces of ammunition.

The local daily Dnevni Avaz speculated that a Rolex watch, from a limited series, was among the seized goods. It was reportedly purchased on the black market after a "Pink Panther" criminal group stole it somewhere abroad.

The action day also targeted an official suspected of corruption. He was in charge of one of Sarajevo’s municipalities, according to Europol.

Bosnia’s officials earlier confirmed that a mayor of Old Town, one of four Sarajevo city municipalities, Ibrahim Hadžibajrić, was among the arrested suspects, as well as his son and his secretary.

Europol said it provided Bosnia’s authorities with "an intelligence package based on information from the Sky ECC operation that allowed the identification of the structure, activities, and international connections of the criminal network."

The EU police agency also assisted national agencies in identifying high-value targets, facilitating information exchange, coordinating operational efforts, and conducting operational analysis.

Apart from assisting Bosnian police in the arrest of an organized crime ring involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption, Europol last week also supported Serbian authorities to bust the Balkans’ largest drug trafficking network based in Serbia.