Accused crime boss arrest is a 'kick' to regional drug trade

09/05/2013

Naser Kelmendi is suspected of running one a major drug trafficking routes through the Balkans.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 09/05/13

photo

Naser Kelmendi remains in EULEX custody. [Savo Prelevic/RFE/RL]

The arrest of suspected narcotics boss Naser Kelmendi is a major step in combatting the drug trade in the region, analysts said.

"The arrest of [Kelmendi] is a strong kick to the narcotics mafia in this region," Vladimir Pivovarov, a university professor of FON University in Skopje, told SETimes.

Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Balkans Policy Institute in Pristina, went a step further, saying Kelmendi's arrest gives hope that the Kosovo police are able to fight organised crime.

"Fighting organised crime is a necessity for Kosovo. It could be also a blow to the regional criminal networks," Bytyci told SETimes.

Kelmendi, a Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) citizen of Kosovo origin, was arrested on Sunday (May 5th) by Kosovo special police forces on an international warrant issued by BiH officials.

He is suspected of running a large group that trafficks heroin and cocaine to Europe through the Balkans.

On Tuesday, EULEX intervened and arrested Kelmendi after Kosovo authorities could not extend his detention past 48 hours. According to the EU mission, Kelmendi is wanted by Interpol on suspicion of being involved in organised crime.

"The fact that we have made sure that he remains under arrest speaks for itself," Francoise Lambert, EULEX acting chief spokesperson, told SETimes.

Kelmendi has been investigated in BiH on 13 criminal charges but has never been brought to trial. Sarajevo police filed the criminal complaints, which include charges of murder, attempted murder and assault, over the past five years against Kelmendi and his sons Elvis, Liridon and Besnik.

Kelmendi is suspected of organising the 2007 murder of Ramiz Delalic, a Sarajevo warlord and senior crime figure who had clashed with the local Albanians. Other charges include arms and cigarettes trafficking to loan sharking and extortion.

''Kelmendi is the prime suspect in this case and one of the main pillars of crime in Europe. [He is] one of the biggest criminals, not only in this part of the world, but also in Europe," BiH State Prosecutor Dubravko Campara told reporters in Sarajevo.

Bosnian authorities were eager to have Kelmendi extradited to Sarajevo. "We will use all diplomatic means to have Kelmendi tried in Sarajevo," BiH Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic told SETimes.

"BiH and Kosovo do not have diplomatic relations and bilateral agreements, but that should not be an obstacle in this case. But all depends exclusively on the judicial bodies and authorities in Kosovo. So far we have good co-operation with Kosovo, and we hope that will continue," BiH Justice Minister Barisa Colak told SETimes.

Other countries in the region have stake in the arrest as well. Kelmendi, 55, his brother Beqir and his three sons own businesses in BiH, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro.

The Montenegro State Prosecutors Office pressed charges against Kelmendi in May 2012 regarding the illegal building of The Caza Grande hotel in Ulcinj. However, charges against him were dismissed after an agreement was reached between the prosecutors and Kelmendi, who donated 10,000 euros to a kindergarten and a primary school.

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Vanja Calovic, director of the MANS NGO, said the arrest could reveal Kelmendi's connections and partners in Montenegro, especially if he has links with the ruling party.

"We doubt that the Montenegrin prosecution will press any new charges against Kelmendi … our authorities see him as an investor and businessman while the rest of the world sees him as a criminal. Let's hope that the investigation will reveal his regional network of political and economic partners, including those in Montenegro," Calovic told SETimes.

Correspondents Ana Lovakovic and Anes Alic in Sarajevo, Katica Djurovic in Belgrade and Marina Stojanovska in Skopje contributed to this report.

How will Kelmendi's arrest help reduce regional crime? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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