**TRIAL STARTS FOR MONEY LAUNDERING GANG WITH TIES TO PANAMA & SERBIA **
Tuesday February 15, 2011 >
WANTED SA has been informed this morning that the trial has started in Belgrade, Serbia today for the so-called Šarić group of drug smugglers and their associates.
The gang is charged with laundering more than EUR 20mn gained through trafficking cocaine.
The group's suspected leader, Darko Šarić, is on the run, and he will be tried in absentia. His status is the same in a separate process where the charges relate to international cocaine smuggling.
His Belgrade-based associate Zoran Ćopić will also be tried in absentia.
Beta news agency reports that in the dock today are "reputable lawyers and businessmen", who helped the gang inject dirty money into legal businesses, when they bought real estate and companies.
The prosecution's key witness will be Mile Jerković of Novi Sad, who took part in the acquisition of the Jedinstvo agricultural company.
The Organized Crime Prosecution has charged that the defendants in this case knew the money put at their disposal came from cocaine.
Prosecutor Miljko Radisaljević said the money laundering was "complex" as individuals in Panama invested in various real estate projects in Panama "cleaning" the money and then transferring to Serbia. According to the indictment, the defendants set up several offshore companies in Panama that transferred the money to Serbia.
US DEA is assisting and investigating several individuals residing in Panama with links to this group.
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