South American cartels frequently resort to trafficking drugs hidden in cargos of fruit. Image: Rinson Chory/ Unsplash

Suspected Balkan cartel ‘boss’ run to ground in base south of Lisbon

Cartel “dedicated to cocaine-trafficking into Europe”

The leader of the ‘Uros Clan’ – one of the principal groups of the so-called Balkan Cartel (also known as the Serbian Mafia) has been arrested south of Lisbon, in the area known as Margem Sul, in a house “valued at two million euros”.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã reports today that the man was arrested on the back of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Austria, in an operation that involved Europol, French, Austrian and Serbian authorities.

Two other suspected members of the clan, a man and a woman, were also arrested “in flagrante”, according to CM.

The Balkan Cartel is generally described as “the most active drug trafficking network at the European level”. 

Latin American organisations that provide drugs to this cartel use the Spanish coasts and ports to introduce the drugs, allegedly in partnership with other organised crime gangs, like ‘o Primeiro Comando da Capital’ – the largest criminal group in Brazil.

According to CM’s report, the 49-year-old head honcho arrested “managed business from Portugal, although the consignments of cocaine did not always pass through our country”.

That said, authorities have been seizing drug hauls with increasing success recently – and their net around this particular cartel has been tightening.

Only last month a ton of Balkan Cartel cocaine was seized in the Spanish port of Algeciras, while authorities in Serbia rounded up various members of another clan known not just for “smuggling tons of cocaine around the world, but also for dismembering enemies with chainsaws, assassinating senior government officials, and cooperating with intelligence agencies”.

In comparison, the Portugal-based clan appears only to be suspected of drug smuggling on an ‘elevated scale’ .

A statement issued by the PJ adds that as part of this operation, several house searches were also carried out, which led to the seizure of various documents and objects of relevant evidential interest.

The three people arrested will now be heard in a first judicial interrogation for the application of bail measures, “which could go as far as pre-trial detention” (meaning preventive custody).

The PJ adds that investigations are continuing to determine the scope and make-up of the network.

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