Serbs, Albanians bridge Kosovo split in oil racket

PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo police have arrested a Serb-Albanian gang for smuggling oil into the newly independent republic from Serbia, a police spokesman said yesterday. Disregarding ethnic hostilities that have flared since the ethnic Albanian majority declared Kosovo independent from Serbia six weeks ago, smugglers have spirited 1,000 tons of oil to Kosovo since last month, officials said, avoiding local customs duties. Police spokesman Besim Hoti said three Kosovo Serbs and one Kosovo Albanian were stopped late on Monday night as they went to pick up two transport vans, which contained about 6 tons of contraband fuel. Hoti said the four tried to fight their way out of a checkpoint, but police fired a warning shot and called in NATO peacekeepers, who took them into custody. He said it was the first smuggling arrest since Kosovo Serbs furious at Kosovo’s independence declaration burned down two border posts in February in the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo, bordering Serbia proper. Kosovo now operates mobile customs posts. Officials on both sides of the border admit off the record that smuggling is rife, making up 60 percent of total trade. Medicines, blue jeans and cows are the most commonly smuggled goods.

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