PRISTINA (Reuters) - Police in Kosovo have arrested Naser Kelmendi, blacklisted by the United States on suspicion of trafficking drugs to Europe, on a warrant from Bosnia, officials said on Monday.
Bosnia is seeking Kelmendi’s extradition because of his suspected involvement in organized crime and his role in the 2007 murder of Ramiz Delalic, a Bosnian Muslim warlord who switched to organized crime after the wars in the Balkans.
However, the extradition will not be smooth because Bosnia does not recognize Kosovo and they have no agreement on extradition - reflecting the still fractured nature of loyalties after Yugoslavia was torn apart in the 1990s.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Bosnia has not recognized it because of the resistance of its Serb-dominated autonomous region, which wants to show solidarity with Serbia.
The U.N. mission in Kosovo, replying to the extradition request because of the lack of diplomatic ties, has written to Bosnia’s police coordination body saying Kosovo could not extradite Kelmendi to Bosnia because its laws do not allow for the extradition of its citizens.
The letter said Kosovo authorities were ready to take over the legal proceeding against Kelmendi.
Nonetheless, Kosovo also expressed a willingness to cooperate through international bodies.
“We believe the case will be facilitated by the EULEX (European Union police and justice mission in Kosovo) because Sarajevo authorities do not recognize Kosovo authorities,” said Driton Lajci, an adviser to Kosovo’s justice minister.
“We will be looking into legal ways also based on international norms in order to have the extradition in compliance with the highest standards,” Lajci told Reuters.
Bosnia’s security minister, Fahrudin Radoncic, also said Bosnia would seek international help with the extradition.
Organized crime flourished during the wars, leaving a region awash with weapons and a transit route for drug traffickers.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama added Kelmendi to a list of 97 drug lords who face sanctions under the U.S. Kingpin Act.
Kelmendi, 55, is a Kosovo-born Albanian with Bosnian citizenship who, together with his sons and brother, owns a number of businesses in Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo, including hotels and a trucking company.
He has been investigated in Bosnia on 13 criminal charges but never brought to trial.
A Kosovo police spokesman said Kelmendi and a second person were arrested on Sunday. A senior police source said Kelmendi was arrested in Pristina.
Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Alison Williams