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23 suspects arrested in links to global drug kingpin’s in Bosnia

SARAJEVO (AP) – Law enforcement officers in Bosnia arrested 23 people suspected of belonging to a “global drug kingpin’s inner circle”, including police and security officials, in a clampdown on criminal networks controlling much of Europe’s cocaine trade, authorities said on Tuesday.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, and Bosnian officials said the suspects were detained on Monday as security forces searched their homes and other locations. They are suspected of drug trafficking, money laundering and other organised crime offences, officials said.

“Among the 23 persons arrested yesterday are not only accomplices, but also corrupt officials identified as facilitators of the network’s criminal activities,” Europol said in a statement.

The 23 are suspected of being part of the “inner circle” of a drug kingpin arrested in 2022 and sentenced to seven years in prison a year later in the Netherlands, it said.

Police seized guns, money, cars, laptops and other evidence during the raids.

Bosnian authorities had previously arrested two other people and seized EUR55,000 (USD58,000), eight firearms, 11 police radios and money-laundering documentation, Europol said.

It said Monday’s arrests were “another milestone” in the fight against the alliance of criminal networks.

Agents from the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and FBI also participated in the operation, it said.

In Bosnia, the state security agency SIPA said authorities temporarily froze bank accounts belonging to the suspects and halted any financial transactions.

It said evidence against the group included encrypted phone conversations.

Members of the special police unit of Canton Sarajevo escort a person arrested in Sarajevo, Bosnia. PHOTO: AP