BELGRADE, Serbia — The president of the Serbian soccer association resigned Monday after being linked to a fan group accused of murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking.
Slavisa Kokeza said he is stepping down to focus on restoring his image after being linked to organized crime.
Kokeza also said in his resignation letter that he wants to allow the national team “necessary peace and stability” at the start of World Cup qualifying. Serbia plays Ireland at home on Wednesday.
Police last month quizzed Kokeza about his alleged links to the leaders of a Partizan Belgrade supporters’ group who were arrested in January in what officials said was a major crackdown against soccer’s links with mafia.
Details from the police investigation leaked to the media include alleged killings by the group members of their rivals, including decapitations and torture in a special “bunker” at the club’s stadium in the Serbian capital.
The group reportedly also had plans to kill populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Kokeza, who was Vucic’s close party ally, said in his resignation letter that linking him to such “brutal” crimes represent “dangerous lies.”
Serbian authorities have a history of tolerating hooliganism that often resulted in violence and outbursts of nationalism at stadiums.
The far-right soccer supporters were often seen at pro-government rallies promoting a nationalist political agenda. In exchange, analysts say, the hooligans have been allowed to pursue their illegal business activities.
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