The court panel in the trial of Balkan drug boss Darko Saric and of his former lawyer, Dejan Lazarevic, accused of planning the murder of Nebojsa Joksovic, on Thursday, decided to accept as evidence the content of the messages from “Sky” communication, on which the majority of the indictment is based.
The Prosecutor’s Office for Organised Crime has accused Saric, who was previously convicted of drug trafficking, of making a plan to kill Joksovic, a cooperating witness in the proceedings against Saric for cocaine smuggling, out of, the Prosecution claims, “reckless” revenge.
The defence had asked for the removal of Sky messages as evidence, calling it “espionage”.
“We are talking about classic espionage; there is no law that allows one country to monitor and eavesdrop on the citizens of another country in that country, and it can be addressed only through international legal assistance and in that way certain individuals can be put to the test,” Saric’s lawyer, Dalibor Katancevic, said.
Together with 14 others, Saric is indicted as organiser of the group that plotted to kill the associate witness in another case against him, and also for ordering policemen to reveal confidential information to him.
Among the indictees are Saric’s brother, Dusko, his former lawyer Dejan Lazarevic and at least three policemen.
The Prosecution said that according to the indictment, Saric, as the criminal group’s organiser, “created a plan of action to take Nebojsa Joksovic’s life out of reckless revenge” and, when that did not work, “issued an order to take actions aimed at discrediting and possibly losing the associate witness status of Nebojsa Joksovic”.
The Prosecution also claims that the three arrested policemen, on Saric’s orders, “undertook actions with the aim of directing the investigations conducted against the members of this organised criminal group in such a way as not to reveal the real perpetrators of the crimes, by collecting strictly confidential and confidential data on the open operational processes against the members of this organised criminal groups and communicating them to … Saric“.
The police takedown of encrypted communications provider Sky ECC has led to a spate of arrests across the Balkans, notably that of Saric and of the former head of Montenegro’s top court.
However, many experts have questioned whether authorities have the know-how or will to follow the myriad leads exposed by the Sky ECC breach, wherever they might take them.
Legal experts have warned of concerns about the legality of how the data from Sky ECC and a similar breach of EncroChat in 2020 is handed over and stored.
In neighbouring Montenegro, many question whether and how the transcripts of alleged conversations pulled from encrypted messages – obtained by an international police operation to hack a secure phone network used by organised crime groups – can be used in trials.
A group of prominent defence lawyers in Montenegro says they cannot. They claim the investigations are flawed and say hacked messages should not be used as evidence in court.
So far, Saric has received only one final court sentence. In 2022, he was sentenced to 14 years on an earlier charge of smuggling 5.7 tons of cocaine from South America to Western Europe during 2008 and 2009.
The second trial, for laundering at least 20 million euros acquired through the sale of narcotics, started all over again this autumn before the Special Department of the High Court in Belgrade.