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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

What's wrong with Red Star Football Club?


Red Star Football Club is a football club in Belgrade, capital of the Republic of Serbia, supported by the Serbian President and his family.

There is nothing wrong with the President of Serbia having an allegiance to a domestic football club, of course - if only that is all it is. But it is more.

Legal basis for sanctioning Red Star Football Club

It is our respectful submission that Red Star Football Club should be placed upon all of the following sanctions registers pursuant to the below-referenced legislative provisions:

the United States Office for Assets Control proscribed organisations / sanctions list, pursuant to Presidential Executive Order 12798 of October 21, 1995, “Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers";

the March 5, 1997 Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 536 which implemented the Executive Order;

the December 3, 1999, Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act to apply "sanctions to significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide" (the 'Kingpin Act');

the July 5, 2000, OFAC issued Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions

Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 598, which implemented the Kingpin Act;

a European Union restrictive measures sanctions list, by way of a Consilium decision enacted pursuant to Article 29 (ex 15) Treaty on European Union; Article 215(2) (ex 301(2) TEC) Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union providing for restrictive measures against natural and legal persons and groups and non-state entities by virtue of qualified majority decision;

Article 38 of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy adopted by the European Parliament in resolution dated 17 February 2021 (document no. A9-0354/2021) providing for the development of the Western Balkans region;

strategic priorities 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 of the EU Drugs Strategy 2021-2025 adopted by the Consilium of the European Union on 21 December 2020 (strategic priorities relating to the suppression of the activities of domestic and international criminal organisations involved in the supply and transit of illegal narcotics);

the guidance of the Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (DG FISMA) "Overview of Sanctions and Related Tools" (last updated 30 June 2022);

sanctions regulations imposed by His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland pursuant to Chapter One and section 49 Sanctions and Money Laundering Act 2018.


Below we give our reasons why we think these measures should be taken against Red Star Football Club and its associate and affiliated entities and individuals; what measures we think should be taken in each case (the breadth of sanctions available under each of three regimes is similar but not identical, the main difference being that EU sanctions may not have extra-territorial effect but US and UK sanctions may); and which specific persons and/or entities should be the subjects of sanctions / restrictive measures.

We note that the Republic of Serbia, as an EU candidate accession country, is systematically invited to align itself with EU restrictive measures: see European Union External Action Service communication of 7 October 2021, "European Sanctions". EU accession candidate countries not so aligning themselves may find their accession negotiations inhibited or suspended.

The grounds for sanctions to be imposed against Red Star Football Club and associated persons and entities

  1. Red Star Football Club of Belgrade, while a successful domestic and even international football club, is notorious amongst both the citizens of Belgrade and Serbians more generally as a front operation for the distribution, smuggling and sale of cocaine, principally in business-to-business quantities.

  2. Its network of cocaine smugglers exists amongst the Club's international supporters, who travel abroad to watch football matches and take cocaine in business quantities with them to sell to local dealers at margins.

  3. These international football supporters, the greater majority of which are Serbian (although not exclusively so), have a reputation for organised violence. (They are known as 'Red Star football hooligans.)

  4. This network of international supporters maintains a series of safe houses around Europe, to facilitate the storage of cocaine in transit.

  5. The cocaine is imported to Serbia from Montenegro where it arrives off vessels coming for the most part from Valencia or other ports in Eastern Spain. The cocaine arrived there in transatlantic voyages from South America.

  6. Transit from Montenegro to Serbia is undertaken for the most part using informal roads and/or informal borders with the connivance of the Montenegrin Police who take a cut for their efforts in facilitation. The border between Serbia and Montenegro is very porous in certain places; there are also porous routes from Montenegro to Southeast Bosnia (mountain roads/passes and then further porous routes from Bosnia onto Serbia.

  7. Belgrade is used as an interim storage centre although cocaine sales to consumers are not particularly common due to the relative impoverishment of Serbian citizens (an average salary might be only 600EUR or so a month, even in central Belgrade.)

  8. Then onward transit is arranged, most of which goes via Hungary with the connivance of corrupt border guards although another route is Serbia-Bosnia-Croatia-Slovenia (a route that for the expert it is possible to undertake entirely using informal roads). Slovenia is in the border-free Schengen Zone, as is Hungary. Hungary and Slovenia are used as further storage points in transit to the major markets in western Europe.

  9. Across the Hungarian border with Serbia, that in principle is relatively well guarded, cocaine blocks are transported typically taped to the underside of the car body using a relatively decrepit or older car. At the smaller borders, there are no facilities to look undermeath a car with any reliability.

  10. Public buses and private minibuses are also used for transit of cocaine, both in the bus chassis and in luggage, that cross the Hungarian border several times daily. Hungary and Serbia need to vastly enhance their use of sniffer dogs on this border.

  11. Belgrade has a healthy market in small used cars, that are bought and sold as and when their registration or chassis numbers become alerted to the Police. Once the vehicle is known for a certain route, it will be sold or exchanged for use on a different route where it is not known of.

  12. Signals interception (not sophisticated in either Serbia or Hungary) should be improved and used to track Red Star football fans' movements across borders and back, to find the storage facilities for the cocaine.

  13. Lists should be drawn up of Red Star football fans known to travel internationally with frequency (most Serbs are far too poor for such a thing) and those individuals should be sanctioned, banning them from travel and banning the use of their bank cards (at least outside Serbia).

  14. In the circumstances, Red Star Football Club is in substantial part an international criminal organisation engaged in the international supply and distribution of highly dangerous high-value narcotics. Its 'football hooligans' do not hesitate to use violence as part of their trade.

  15. Red Star focuses upon cocaine. The other high-margin narcotic passing through the Western Balkans,heroin, is trafficked by the Albanians in a route that goes from Albanian ports into Kosovo (porous border) then up through North Kosovo (in a quid pro quo connivance with the Kosovar Serbs) and then on up through Serbia and out via the two routes described above. We do not have any information to suggest that Red Star Football Club is involved in the substantial heroin trafficking business that runs through the Western Balkans.

  16. It is in Serbia's domestic interest, and in the international public interest, that the unlawful activities of Red Star Football Club be suppressed using the force of law.

  17. A range of methods might be used to suppress the cocaine trade taking place under the auspices of Red Star FC, including an interim ban on the playing of games abroad; enhanced immigration and customs supervisions of staff and supporters of the Football Club; and a ban on international and domestic financial transfers involving the Club and its associates. We explore these in further detail below.

  18. We are not asserting that the President of Serbia is involved in or profits from any of this. In fact he has a rather principled, moralistic opposition to drug use by reason of his devout religious convictions. Nevertheless he turns a blind eye to what we all know is going on. The reason he does this is because he has no choice. In his government, a coalition of pro-western contemporary politicians, Russophiles and criminals (recall that his Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar is a former gangland assassin), he does not have sufficient scope to take decisive action against these criminals and he surely fears for his own life should he attempt to do so. This is all the more a reason for the international community to take action, in the face of impotence on the part of Serbia's decent political classes that for domestic reasons are unable to act but who would surely tacitly approve.

  19. By suppressing a substantial part of Serbia's criminal economy, the international community could act in a definitive way to promote rule of law in the Republic of Serbia and hence render the prospect of Serbia's reasonably proximate accession to the European Union (itself long overdue) ever more viable. Removing the large amounts of criminal money from the frontier of Serbia with Kosovo and Montenegro would surely also assist in stabilising Serbia's borders more securely and thereby promoting a tolerable armisice arrangement with Kosovo. The current informal border chaos in southern Serbia benefits only drug traffickers; nobody else.

  20. The emphasis in any regime of sanctions should not be persecution of Red Star Football Club as a football team; actually they are quite a good team and they are some source of Serbian national pride. Rather sanctions must be drawn in such a way as to separate the football team itself from the international criminal organisation that has sprouted from it, without denting Serbia's (precarious and volatile) sense of national pride. Hence what is needed is acutely targeted sanctions.

  21. The Club itself should be exempt from sanctions to the extent that it is willing to accept regular international forensic audits until the problem has been eliminated. The fans' organisations should be targeted relentlessly.

The persons and entities that should be subject to sanctions / restrictive measures

  1. Фудбалски клуб Црвена звезда ('Red Star Football Club'), a legal entity incorporated under the laws of the Republic of Serbia, plus all affiliated companies and legal entities (there is also a Red Star Basket Ball Club amongst various other Red Star institutions); subject to the proviso that sanctions will be lifted and remain lifted provided that a mutually agreed firm of international forensic accountants are granted constant access to all accounts financial statements records and other documents they may so request and that they are satisfied that that there is no impropriety in the accounts and corporate structure (such certifications to be made monthly failing which sanctions will snap back)

  2. Express exclusion of the French football club of the same name

  3. All legal entities owned or controlled or associated with Red Star Football Club or having financial transactions with Red Star Football Club, subject to forensic auditing requirements

  4. Svetozar Milajlovic, President

  5. Milos Milokevic, Head Coach

  6. All Red Star Football Club supporters' groups

  7. All members of Red Star Football Club supporters' groups (a Europol working group should be created to monitor membership and travel patterns of such people)

The proposed sanctions / restrictive measures

  1. International and domestic financial transactions (to the extent permissible by the law of the sanctioning jurisdiction; EU rules against extra-territoriality prohibit a ban upon domestic Serbian financial transactions)

  2. Travel bans

  3. Prohibition on the team playing abroad (subject to compliance with forensic auditing requirements)

  4. Prohibitions on other teams travelling to Serbia to play Red Star football club

  5. Foreign account freezes

Proposed length of sanctions: six months, subject to automatic renewal absent a certification of good standing and full cooperation from the internationally agreed forensic accountants.

Serbia should be required to submit to an enhanced system of international supervision of her frontiers, including all the informal roads that very few foreigners know about (but this one does), as an additional condition of sanctions being lifted.

Another condition of lifting the sanctions should be that Serbia keeps a database of Red Star supporters subject to heightened scrutiny of their international travel patterns. Where those patterns reveal behaviour consistent with criminality, those persons should have their passports and other international identity documents revoked. This system should be subject to Europol oversight.

Red Star Football Club is a superlative opportunity to employ targeted sanctions effectively to suppress the flow of high-margin dangerous narcotics, and at the same time help the Serbian government nudge itself in the direction of EU integration. We at The PALADINS Organisation commend such a package of sanctions to the intermational community.


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