Ramiz “Ćelo” Delalić was a well-known and popular guy in Bosnia and Herzegovina for his military service during the war, respected for his fierce defense of Sarajevo, both overt and covert.
He was also a mobster, and that’s what got him killed.
By 2006, enough tension had developed between rival crime families that accused Kosovo Albanian crime boss Naser Kelmendi and his henchmen decided Delalić had to die, but this created a problem for them.
Who should do it?
According to an indictment filed by prosecutors working with the Special Prosecution Office of the Republic of Kosovo, finding just the right hit man is not that easy.
The indictment accuses Kelmendi and his organized crime group—including Fahrudin Radončić, a former media mogul who is running for president of Bosnia and Herzegovina—of plotting to kill Delalić, mostly to protect Kelmendi’s extensive drug trafficking operations but for a couple of other reasons too.
On June 27, 2007, Delalić was shot to death in Sarajevo. Now Kelmendi is in custody in Kosovo, awaiting trial on murder and drug trafficking charges, while Radončić is denying that he had anything to do with it. He maintains that he is not accused in the indictment.
In an interview with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) Radončić maintains that much of the evidence against him comes from the testimony of an interested party – Šejla Jugo Turković, a former employee and confidante who is also the wife of Zijad Turković.
According to the indictment and witness accounts, pulling off the assassination took months of planning and several false starts.
Jugo Turković, a former TV journalist who worked for Radončić’s media empire for a decade and became his trusted personal assistant, provided much of the inside information contained in the indictment.
“When they planned Ramiz’s murder, they had to go through several people to find someone,” she told CIN/OCCRP.
“At the beginning Kelmendi suggested to (Radončić) some names, Albanian names,” she said. “These are unknown people; they are not mentioned in any feuds nor in criminal activities; they are from some backwoods, from some village near Peć,” Kelmendi’s hometown in Kosovo.
She went on to say that a few days later Kelmendi dropped that idea, saying it would be too hard to organize getting the men to Sarajevo and helping them escape. The next idea was a candidate from East Sarajevo, “a man he had good relations with, but that man was also good with Ramiz, and so he refused,” Jugo Turković said. Đorđe Ždrale turned it down:“He was offered 200,000 KM!” she said.
Kelmendi approached her future husband as well, but he wasn’t interested either.
“When Naser asked Zijad if he could find someone Turković said, ‘All you Albanians are crazy though, why don’t you kill him? Don’t involve me in that,’” Jugo Turković said. They tried several times to find someone, and eventually Serbian mobster Ljubiša “Ćume” Buha connected them with the members of a so-called Šabac team (after a Serbia town) made up of Strahinja Rašeta, Milan Mitić and Nebojša “Četnik” Vukomanović according to the indictment. They accepted the job.
Prosecutors say several people had reason to want Delalić dead: Kelmendi because Delalić posed a threat to his lucrative drug business; allegedly Radončić’s best man Ekrem Lekić believed Delalić was responsible for the murder of his relative Selver Lekić.
Radončić told CIN/OCCRP that it was nonsensical to blame Delalić for Lekić’s death, because Mersudin Ćosović was convicted of the crime and is imprisoned in Serbia.
Ekrem Lekić said the prosecution theory is absurd.
Still, the indictment cites several witnesses saying that Buha hired the three-member strong team to kill Delalić at Kelmendi’s behest. Milan “Sandokan” Ostojić was involved in assembling the team. In his testimony Ostojić denied playing a role and said that Rašeta was the executioner.
Rašeta’s parents confirmed to prosecutors that their son had been hired to kill Delalić, but said that Sandokan had first received the commission from yet another mobster from the Šabac clan, Milovan “Krce” Jeremić. They also said Kelmendi had paid € 200,000 for the hit.
Rašeta was unavailable for interrogation, as he blew himself up in 2008 while planting a bomb under Mitić’s car. Police theorize that the two fell out over dividing the booty from the US$ 2.6 million robbery of the Split post office.
Jugo Turković said Kelmendi was happy with the team “because one of them, Rašeta, already did a job for Naser (Kelmendi), and he did not have to deal with him and ensure his transport over the border. And he said that it is best to do this with Serbs, because they would organize it all on their own: ‘The only thing we have to do is to find an apartment for them here, and the rest is up to them.’
According to Jugo Turković, the Serbian hit team moved into an apartment in Hrasno, a neighborhood in Sarajevo, where they stayed for some time, tracking Delalić’s movements. She said she tried to warn him, but had to choose her words carefully.
“I tried to tell him indirectly, so that he would not go to the police and say that I was the one who gave him the information,” she said.
“However, when he didn’t take me seriously, I then told him, ‘Listen to me, I was there when they agreed to kill you. You will be killed! It’s been paid! … Don’t be stupid, don’t lose your head, understand!’
“He said, ‘You are around Albanians too much and with Fahro, they brainwashed you. They can’t approach me, how do you not understand that!? They can’t come to me!’ I said, ‘They can! Believe me that they can!’ And it ended like that.”