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Surreptitious Recordings of Conversations among Ćopić and the Surčin Ring Kingpin Played Out in Courtroom

In the then trial of Zoran Ćopić before the Banja Luka District Court that continued yesterday, the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Republika Srpska (RS) played out surreptitious recordings of conversations among Ćopić and members of the Serbian and Montenegrin underground.

Ćopić was indicted of funneling crime proceeds into the RS legitimate economy between 2008 and mid- 2011. Some of the money he invested into buying stock in Bijeljina Sugar Factory. His co-defendants are Ljubo Mrđen and Drago Nižol, directors of his Banja Luka-based firms “Agrocoop export-import” and “Avio Rent” respectively. Mrđen pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in prison.

According to the indictment, the money belongs to Darko Šarić, for whom prosecutors say was the leader and the mastermind of a vast Balkan drug ring branching out all the way to South America. Since 2009, Šarić is on the run while Serbia has been prosecuting several members of his organization.

In 2009, in one of the bugged calls, Serbian police learned that Ćopić agreed with Darko Šarić’s brother Duško that they go to a funeral in Zlatibor.

Special prosecutor Slobodan Ćelić said that this recording proved that Ćopić new Darko Šarić very well. At one moment, Ćopić informed Duško he and Darko Šarić were the only ones who always had a reserved table at a restaurant.

The Prosecutor’s Office played also a recording of a conversation between Ćopić and Montenegrin businessman Nuo Stanaj. Nuo is a brother of Antun Stanaj who was convicted last year to 6.5 years in prison for cigarette smuggling. The Stanaj brothers are long-time Ćopić friends and business partners with whom he collaborated during the privatization of Serbian companies.

During this conversation, Nuo Stanaj complained that he was out of money because banks were loath to lend him, while he was on the verge of default and fretted that his firms’ accounts could soon be frozen. Ćopić said that he was also in a financial bind at the moment, but assured Stanaj that Šarić was going to pay it all. Ćopić explained to him that Andrija Krlović hated him and Stanaj.

Krlović if a former police officers and Darko Šarić’s lawyer who was arrested in Serbia in March 2010, and is also charged with laundering of Šarić’s money.

The prosecution also played out a part of Ćopić’s phone calls recorded during 2011 in BiH, at the orders of the Banja Luka Distric Court.

The first recordings were intercepted on April 14, 2011 when directors of Ćopić’s firms in Serbia and his closest associates were arrested.

That morning, an unidentified person informed Ćopić that a criminal complaint had been filed against him, while a police in a Serbian town of Sombor took for interrogation Milivoj Pavlović, the CEO of a Novi Sad-based Agrokopa; Radislav Cmiljanić, director of Stanišić company; Pavle Čolakov, director of Agrostan Plus and Dara Pilipović, director of Megatabak. Zlatka Mrdak, an employee of Sombor land registry office was also arrested.

With Mrdak’s help, Ćopić and his associates have illegally transferred the ownership of land owned by Stanišić Company that was under restraint on alienation, according to the complaint.

According to the Special Prosecutors, Ćopić and his associates in BiH and Serbia were in panic.

That and the following day, Ćopić made a dozen phone calls to his friend Mišo Dobrić, CEO of Pink TV, Drago Nižol and other persons from Serbia whom neither the prosecutors nor police could identify. He tried to learn as much as possible about the arrests of his associates.

He also tried to learn why the authorities did not register the stock in Bijeljina Sugar Factory that a Banja Luka-based Agrocoop bought. He talked about it with Fero Moralić, brother of a Croatian businessman Enver Moralić who invested over € six million into the factory, according to the indictment.

He also talked about the arrests with Ljubiša Buha aka Ćume, the first supergrass in the case against the members of Belgrade underground charged with the murder of a Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić. According to the White Book – the special report of Serbian police from 2001, Ćume was the kingpin of the Surčin ring, one of the most powerful Serbian criminal organizations before Đinđić assassination.

In the last telephone call that was played out at this hearing, Ćopić talked with another former member of the Surčin group – Milan Narančić aka Lemon. The two of them were also commenting on the arrests going on in Serbia. At one point they even said that they were aware that their phones had been bugged and complaint about difficult financial situation.

In 2001, according to the White Book, Narančić was depicted as a high-ranking soldier of the Surčin group.

Next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, March 30. The Prosecutor’s Office announced that it would play out the reminder of 2011 telephone calls.

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