Serbian Organized Crime (Serbian: / Srpska Mafija, Serbian Mafia) are various criminal organizations based in Serbia or composed of ethnic Serbs in the Serbian Diaspora. The organizations are primarily involved in smuggling, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, protection rackets and illegal gambling. The Mafia is composed of several major organized groups, which in turn have wider networks throughout Europe.
The Serbian Mafia gave many Serbs a “way out” of the economic disaster that occurred in the country following the implementation of internationally imposed sanctions against Serbia during the Yugoslav Wars. Serbian criminals have been recruited to state security forces, a notable example is Legija, a commander in Arkan’s Tigers which after the war was re-labelled as the JSO (Red Berets), he also planned the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Ðindic.
The ethnic Serbian OC groups are organized in the horizontal manner and higher ranked members are not necessarly coordinated by any leader.
In the early 1900s, a known outlaw was Jovo Stanisavljevic Caruga, a hajduk from Slavonia (modern-day Croatia) who joined the “band of mountain birds” (Kolo Gorskih Ptica, tici) a group of robbers who ravaged the countryside of Slavonia. In 1991, the biographical film Caruga was released. It was the last film ever produced in Yugoslavia.
Ljuba Zemunac was known as the “Godfather” of the Serbian Mafia during the 1970s and 1980s. He and his gang operated in Germany and Italy during this time. He was assassinated in 1986 by the orders of his rival Goran Vukovic “Majmun”.
Joca Amsterdam operated in the Netherlands and became one of the most powerful gangsters through his elimination of rivals while working as a hitman and took over the drug trade in the Netherlands. The drug that was smuggled was cocaine and it was obtained from contacts in Colombia and earned Amsterdam the name the “Cocaine King”. He worked for “Duja” Becirovic as an underboss and later lived in Bulgaria where he successfully smuggled drugs until his arrest in 2002. Upon returning to Serbia, he took over companies by force, utilizing the Surcin clan, (one of three then most powerful “clans” of Belgrade). He was later involved in the 2008 car bombing of Croatian journalists Ivo Pukanic and Niko Franjic.
Later, gangster “Željko Ražnatovic Arkan” was a successful bank robber in Western Europe during the 1970s. He had convictions and warrants in Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. However, he managed to escape from several prisons and then made connections with several known criminals from Yugoslavia during his time there. In the 1980s he returned to Serbia where he became involved with illegal businesses and led the Red Star Belgrade supporters’ group Delije Sever Ultras.