Phone Conversations Confirm Drug Money Laundering

Recorded telephone conversations aired in a Bosnian court provide new evidence connecting Zoran Copic, a Bosnian national currently in prison for money laundering, and the fugitive Serbian drug lord Darko Saric. These phone conversations also show a connection between Copic and Nebojsa Jestrovic, a Serbian national, who was convicted in October 2011 for laundering cocaine money.

The conversations from February 2009 were presented during Copic’s trial on Wednesday. Special prosecutor Slobodan Celic told the court in the northwestern city of Banja Luka that the content of these recordings shows that Copic was an important business consultant to Darko Saric. Recordings of other conversations played during the trial show the connection between Copic and Jestrovic. The two can be heard arranging a money delivery without mentioning any details about the provenance of the cash. According to the prosecution, the call proves that they both knew where the money was coming from.

Copic is accused of laundering around US$13 million for Saric between 2008 and mid 2010, while working with a number of other individuals as an organized group. The prosecution believes that two companies belonging to Copic, Agrokop from Banja Luka, and Šećerana from Bjeljina, were used for laundering Saric’s cocaine money.

An OCCRP investigation in 2011, “Man in the Middle,” detailed Copic’s businesses, suspected money laundering, and privatizations in Serbia and Bosnia which were in violation of his agreement with the authorities.

After Copic’s arrest in April 2011, the authorities shut down his factories and froze his assets. Among Copic’s personal property seized by the police was a Cessna plane worth US$207,000.

Saric was little known until the operation “Balkan Warrior” in 2009, when Interpol seized more than two tons of cocaine near the Uruguayan coast. According to the Serbian authorities, Saric is one of the leaders of a major drug trafficking network stretching from South Africa to Europe, that makes more than US$ 1.3 billion a year.

South African newspaper The Daily Voice reported on January 16 that Darko Saric is hiding in South Africa under a pseudonym, where he is sheltered by the local mafia and corrupt police.

Saric’s brother, Dusko Saric, is also on trial in Montenegro for laundering US$ 28 million in cocaine money.