June 15, 2015 / 10:20 AM / 4 years ago

Serbia arrests 38 police and customs officers in anti-graft sweep

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian police have seized more than three dozen police and customs officers and charged them with corruption and abuse of office, in the biggest such arrest in decades, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The 29 unidentified police and nine customs officers were all operating in the northern town of Backi Breg and the nearby border crossing with European Union neighbor Hungary.

Serbia wants to join the EU but it must first root out endemic corruption and organized crime.

The arrests were made in cooperation with Hungarian authorities, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. One civilian was also arrested.

“The police have filed criminal charges ... on reasonable suspicion that over the past 15 months the group have committed an array of crimes, including ... giving and taking bribes and abuse of office,” the statement said.

The suspects were accused of involvement in smuggling goods duty-free into the EU and abuse of visa-free travel between Serbia and the bloc.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Kevin Liffey

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