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A Broken Operation in Venice Exposed Group America’s Slovakian Connection

A Broken Operation in Venice Exposed Group America’s Slovakian Connection

On the night of April 6, 2009, Mladen Miljanić and Braim Sinani were on the road, driving an Opel Astra across the plains of northern Italy from Milan to Venice. The two men were visiting from Slovakia, but they weren’t tourists — as police wiretaps of their conversations would later prove. In the car, Miljanić bragged about supervising his first drug handoff and talked about his uncle, a notorious drug smuggler. Sinani fretted about the price of cocaine, then told Miljanić he was interested in doing business with his organization again. That organization is Group America, one of the most...

How Group America’s Money Feeds the Balkan Economy

How Group America’s Money Feeds the Balkan Economy

What do drug traffickers do with the mountains of cash they make supplying Europe’s cocaine habit? For members of Group America, the answer is easy: Spend it on Zlatibor, a mountain resort in southwestern Serbia. Though global in scope, the international cocaine smuggling operation has both roots and friends in Serbia. It’s only natural that hundreds of millions of narco-dollars the gang makes each year go back to the old country. Much of it travels the old-fashioned way. In December 2008, Italian police eavesdropping on Group America operations in Milan heard gang leaders discussing a problem: Vladimir Rasic, an operative...

My Day With a Narco-Baron Behind Bars

My Day With a Narco-Baron Behind Bars

LIMA, Peru (August 16, 2017) – Standing in front of tall metal doors wrapped in razor wire in the dusty outskirts of Lima, Peru, my colleague Stevan Dojčinović and I realize this might not be such a great idea. I’m about to pose as a prostitute to sneak into the maximum-security Miguel Castro Castro prison. Getting past the facility’s high walls and heavily-armed guards is my only chance to interview Zoran Jaksić, the second-in-command of a notorious international drug gang called Group America. Authorities in Peru, Germany, Greece, and Argentina, as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, say Jaksić...

The Hardest-Working Drug Gang You’ve Never Heard of

The Hardest-Working Drug Gang You’ve Never Heard of

On a cold winter day in Gdansk, Zoran Jakšić scrambled to fix a problem not of his making. The second-in-command of Group America, a major international narcotics trafficking organization, was in Poland to prepare for a drug delivery. But at 12:42 p.m. on January 28, 2009, Jakšić received a troubling call from an associate called Milan who was in contact with Dragan Vujović, a crewman on the cargo ship MV Senator. The ship was scheduled to reach Europe in a few days with US$8.2 million in cocaine from South America smuggled aboard. Now there was a huge problem: The ship...

Powerful Serbian-American Drug Traffickers May Have Ties to Intelligence Agencies

Powerful Serbian-American Drug Traffickers May Have Ties to Intelligence Agencies

Mileta Miljanić, a Bosnian-born U.S. citizen, is a wanted man in Italy and faces arrest if he so much as changes planes there. In New York, a 2003 federal indictment of Miljanić remains inexplicably open, with no apparent move to take him to court. So it’s easy to find the leader of “Group America,” a brutal cocaine trafficking network that operates on at least four continents and is said to be responsible for a dozen murders. He keeps an apartment in a neat townhouse in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens, New York. His surname is on his doorbell. Sometimes he...

How a Notorious Arms Dealer Hijacked Niger’s Budget and Bought Weapons From Russia

How a Notorious Arms Dealer Hijacked Niger’s Budget and Bought Weapons From Russia

As militant groups spread across the Sahel, the West African nation of Niger went on a U.S.-backed military spending spree that totaled about US$1 billion between 2011 and 2019. But almost a third of that money was funnelled into inflated international arms deals – seemingly designed to allow corrupt officials and brokers to siphon off government funds, according to a confidential government audit obtained by OCCRP that covers those eight years. The Inspection Générale des Armées, an independent body that audits the armed forces, found problems with contracts amounting to over $320 million out of the $875 million in military...