One of Europe’s Most Wanted Fugitives Arrested in Bosnia

Опубликовано: 12 Декабрь 2023

Mladen Samardzija Slovenia WantedMladen Samardžija. Wanted! (Photo: Ministrstvo za notranje zadeve/Policija Slovenija)

Acting on an international warrant, police in Bosnia and Herzegovina arrested a man wanted in Slovenia for trafficking drugs throughout Europe. Slovenian authorities described him as “dangerous.”

Media identified the man as Mladen Samardžija, 33, a Slovenian citizen who used his dual Bosnian citizenship to avoid courts in Slovenia. Police said he is suspected of “unauthorized production and trafficking of narcotics, organized crime, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.”

The suspect was caught in an operation code-named “Tokyo,” conducted at Jahorina ski resort near the country’s capital Sarajevo after a long investigation supervised by the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After Samardžija fled Slovenia, he “continued to lead an organized criminal group engaged in international drug trafficking in the European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro,” the police statement said.

Investigators said he was involved in the transportation and sale of over 40 kilograms of cocaine and half a kilo of heroin.

During the operation, police seized one kilogram of cocaine and a small quantity of marijuana, 8,000 convertible marks (US$4,390), and 122,580 euros ($131,784) in cash, four pistols, 20 rounds of 9x19 caliber ammunition, a laptop, several cell phones, and several vehicles.

Regional media speculated about which organized crime group Samardžija was a member of. According to media reports in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he was a close friend of Jovan Vukotić, the head of the Škaljari clan, who was killed in Turkey last year.

Some Montenegrin media, however, linked Samardžija with the Kavač clan, rivals of the Škaljari clan. Both the Kavač and Škaljari clans originate from Kotor on the Adriatic coast. Initially partners in cocaine smuggling from South America into Europe, they split over a deal that went bad in 2014.

The resulting conflict has ruptured the criminal underworld in Serbia and Montenegro, prompting other crime groups, and even some police and politicians, to pick sides.

This conflict has resulted in the deaths of dozens of people in countries of the former Yugoslavia and beyond, as the gangs battle to control routes for smuggling cocaine from South America to satisfy Europe’s 5.7 billion-euro-a-year habit.