With Police Connections, Serbian-Syrian Translator Turned People-Smuggler

Alen Basil in 2012. Photo: Facebook

When BIRN called Basil to ask about the claims that he is involved in the people-smuggling business, he denied the accusations.

"I am a court translator, I work with the court and of course I am mentioned [n that context], because I am there with the prosecutor and with the court," he said.

He denied that he knows Abu Omar, even though BIRN has a photograph of them together and a tape of them having a telephone conversation.

"I don't know him. Wait, are you an inspector… or a journalist? Goodbye," Basil said, then hung up the phone.

BIRN contacted the Serbian police about the issue, but received no response by the time of publication.

'I'm an authority in Serbia'
Abu Omar (L), Alen Basil (R)

An NGO employee, who worked with Basil during his time at the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, told BIRN on condition of anonymity that many migrants and refugees had accused Basil of asking them for money in exchange for elevating their names on an informal list compiled by the Commissariat of those who would be allowed entry into Hungary after its borders were closed in 2015.

At that time, Hungarian police were allowing in 10 per day per border crossing.

This was only the beginning, however.

Information garnered from hours of audio recordings - and corroborated independently by BIRN using five other sources, including a Serbian security service official - paint a picture of a ruthless operator at the head of a group that at one point, according to a source, had 15 drivers spiriting people over the border.

The group rents out spots on the border to other smugglers, charging a one-off fee of 20,000 euros and a further 5,000...

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