Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Thursday that 17 members of a criminal group headed by a football supporter group chief had been arrested on charges of murder, extortion, abduction and drug trafficking.
The Interior Ministry later said the police arrested two more suspects. All 19 are between 30 and 50 years of age.
“After months of hard work, a night on our feet which was successful, today we arrested 17 members of an organized crime group headed by Veljko Belivuk aka Velja Nevolja (Velja Trouble) and Marko Miljkovic,” Vulin told a morning news conference organised only for the state Tanjug news agency, following reports of a strong police presence at the Partizan Belgrade and Red Star football stadiums.
Both men returned to Serbia from Montenegro last Friday and were arrested and questioned in Belgrade about events in Serbia’s southern neighbor but were released four hours later.
The Montenegrin police reported the arrests of a number of people involved in an attempt to kill Belivuk who is alleged to be close to one of the biggest organized crime groups in the region, the Montenegrin Kavacki clan.
Belivuk is known as the head of the former ‘Janjicari’ and then ‘Principi’ football hooligan groups which were involved with the Montenegrin crime clan.
He was charged with involvement in the murder of a man in central Belgrade but was freed and later took over the Janjicari group after the murder of Aleksandar Stankovic aka Sale Mutavi in 2016.
“I will not tolerate groups that think they are stronger than the state, who commit extortion and racketeering. We can say that Serbia today is a better and safer place thanks to the Organized Crime Prosecution,” Vulin said.
N1 reported earlier that Belivuk and Miljkovic, along with 15 other suspects, were arrested before dawn on Thursday under a warrant issued by the prosecution. They were reported to have been taken to the Security Information Agency (BIA – the country’s top civilian security agency) for interrogation.
An SBPOK official Ninoslav Cmolic said the group was responsible for „monstrous crimes committed in the last ten years.“
„They were hiding behind the FC Partizan supporters’ group, but they are not fans, they are common criminals. They are done,“ Colic said.
N1’s reporter Jelena Zoric said later on Thursday that the operation was the first serious blow to organised crime since the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power in 2012.
She added that Belivuk could be suspected of killing an FC Red Star’s supporter.
„As far as I know, at least six men disappeared in the last several months. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said last October he would not allow someone to racketeer, cut off heads and send videos via the Sky application,“ Zoric said.
She added that „tabloids’ stories now say the Kavacki and rival Skaljarski clans (also from Montenegro, both operating and waging war among themselves in their country, Serbia and elsewhere) communicated via that app.“
The tabloids, as Zoric said, linked Belivuk to Kavacki group.