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How the infiltration of Sky ECC messaging enabled an unprecedented crackdown on the Balkan mafias

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The specialized organized crime court in Belgrade has been transformed into a bunker, protected by hooded and over-armed police. Monday, November 7, in this anonymous building in the Serbian capital, more than 30 members of the most dangerous mafia clan in the Balkans have been tried in recent years, accused of having committed at least seven assassinations of sadistic brutality. And all that their leader, Veljko Belivuk, alias “Velja Nevolja” (“Velja the problem”), 37, can say, who appears by exchanging big laughs and coded signs with his comrades, has the potential to compromise the leaders. of this country of almost 7 million inhabitants.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers In the Balkans, gangs at the heart of a state system

At the start of his trial in mid-October, this round-eyed colossus, wearing a polo shirt too tight for his imposing muscles, denied all the murders of which he is accused, but he assured that he had carried out various intimidation operations on behalf of from ruling party, the Serbian Progressive Party, of which he was a member. “I led a group that served the needs of the state”, said at the helm this former leader of the ultra supporters of Partizan, a Belgrade football club that has become a landmark of the underworld. He claims, for example, to have sent, in 2016, his big arms to demolish with the hammer and the digger an old district of Belgrade, at the indirect request of the then Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, since become President, who wanted to lead there major real estate projects.

Explosive assertions, immediately dismissed by the principal concerned. “I have never seen or heard of any of them in my life.defended himself on television Mr. Vucic, a former nationalist now claiming to be pro-European, who has dominated local political life since 2014. If that were the case, not only would I not be president of Serbia, but I would be ready to spend the rest of my life in prison. » If it is difficult to know who is telling the truth in this troubled game where witnesses have the annoying tendency to retract and where justice has never been exemplary, one thing is certain: all these fine people, with the notable exception of Mr. Vucic, is currently in court thanks to a spectacular infiltration operation carried out by the French, Belgian and Dutch police.

A “level of information” never obtained before

Between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2021, investigators from these three countries succeeded in penetrating an encrypted messaging service, called Sky ECC. Sold on the Dark Net, it was particularly appreciated by criminals all over the world, starting with the Balkan clans active in the trafficking of drugs and cigarettes. Now in the hands of the security forces of the countries of the region, the tens of millions of messages that have been exchanged there have made it possible to trigger, in recent months, unprecedented crackdowns against the mafias which have been thriving for thirty years on the ashes of the former Yugoslavia. Above all, these investigations have revealed the extent of the mafia penetration of these States which aspire to join, one day, the European Union.

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