Serbia: Another day, another dead mobster

Belgrade’s spree of public mob killings continued Tuesday when a car bomb exploded on a busy city street, killing a Montenegrin with ties to fugitive Darko Saric’s drug empire. Radojica Joksovic, 32, died when a bomb exploded under the passenger seat of his Audi A6 in the White Water neighborhood. The car’s driver received only minor injuries, leading police to believe it was a targeted and professional attack to stifle potential testimony against Saric.

The explosion was the third organized crime-related murder in Belgrade since April, and the second in 11 days. Police said none of the crimes were related, but all the victims men had ties to leaders of powerful criminal groups. Two were killed by bomb, another was shot to death. A fourth man – who police and prosecutors say had connections to Saric and jailed boss Joca Amsterdam -- survived a gunshot wound to the head during an apparently botched and amateur attack in Novi Sad on May 11.

Joksovic’s death Tuesday followed several unsuccessful attacks on the property of his uncle, Nebojsa, including multiple rocket-propelled grenades fired earlier this year at a building he owned in Belgrade.

Joksovic grew up in Saric’s hometown of Pljevlje, Montenegro, and he and his uncle Nebojsa, worked for Saric’s gang, according to police and indictments. Nebojsa was particularly close to Saric, the men having been friends since elementary school. Nebosja served as Saric’s director of operations in Italy, according to law enforcement sources and court records.

But the group had a falling out after a series of high profile arrests in an international operation dubbed “Balkan Warrior.’’ Saric and 19 associates were charged with smuggling after a ship containing more than two tons of cocaine was seized off the coast of Uruguay in 2009. Saric remains on the run.

Nobojsa Joskovic was captured in January, 2010 and quickly became an informant against his longtime friend. He has been living under police guard since, according to Belgrade media reports.

Tuesday’s murder sparked immediate speculation in both the law enforcement community and among  the local press. The newspaper Kurir quoted Serbian law enforcement sources and others as saying the hit appeared to be a “classic,’’ mafia message intended to scare Nobojsa to stop testifying against Saric and his gang. The newspaper sources speculated that since the criminals couldn’t reach Nebojsa directly, they would attack his family members.

But the newspaper Blic and its sources had a different take. It quoted law enforcement sources as saying they believed that after Balkan Warrior, Radojica left Saric’s gang to joint a rival criminal organization, creating friction. The newspaper said there was even speculation that Radojica intended to kill Nebojsa over past problems and because he had become a traitor to the organization.
Instead, Radojica wound up dead.

Just 11 days ago, another, more powerful, car bomb rocked Belgrade. Bosko Raicevic, a relative of Andrija Draskovic, was killed in the Dorcal district during an afternoon attack. Police have not announced suspects or a motive for the killing, but Draskovic was a very powerful Serbian mobster who is serving a nine-year prison sentence for killing a rival in 2000. He was convicted in 2011.

On April 19, a lone assassin gunned down Vujadin Pejanovic outside the Key Largo Café in New Belgrade shortly before midnight. Pejanovic was a member of the notoriously violent New Belgrade Clan, headed by fugitive mobster Dejan Stojanovic. Stojanovic is on the run and Interpol has issued a warrant for drug charges out of Brazil.

Pejanovic was shot once in the temple and several times in the torso in what police said was a fight over narcotics distribution.  

And in May, a Novi Sad gunman opened fire at a pizza house and grazed the head of Nebojsa Tubica, who police said had dealings with Saric and Joca Amsterdam, according to the Kurir newspaper. More than a dozen shots were fired but nobody else was hurt and Tubica was treated and released.