Balkan 'cocaine king' nabbed in international sting: reports

BELGRADE - An international police operation involving Serbia and Montenegro has nabbed Balkan "cocaine king" Darko Saric, who has been on the run for more than four years, media reports said Tuesday.

Saric is alleged to be the mastermind behind a cocaine trafficking network set up between 2007 and 2009 with links across Europe and South America.

According to Serbian channel B92, 43-year-old Saric was picked up somewhere in South America and transferred to authorities in Montenegro. He was then moved to Belgrade on Tuesday morning.

Further details were due to be given at a press conference in Belgrade at 12:00 (1100 GMT).

Saric is already being tried for drug trafficking in absentia, along with 19 members of his organisation. He is also subject to an investigation into money laundering in Serbia.

In February 2013, Serbian investigators opened an enquiry into alleged contacts between senior government officials and the trafficking gang, following media reports that Prime Minister Ivica Dacic had met with a representative of Saric in 2008.

Dacic, who was then interior minister, admitted being at a large function with the gang member, but said he was unaware of his association with Saric.

The fight against organised crime is one of the key conditions imposed on Balkan countries by the EU as they seek to join the 28-member bloc.

Serbia gained candidate status in March 2013 and hopes to win a date for accession this year.