BELGRADE — Shortly after arresting a man suspected of leading a criminal gang last month in connection with a series of killings involving beheadings and torture, Serbian police officers raided what they believe was the band’s secret lair: a bunkerlike room in the bowels of a stadium used by Partizan Belgrade, a storied soccer team in the Serbian capital.
The room, located in a defunct restaurant under the stands, has been sealed off as a crime scene after investigators hunting for evidence of ties between soccer hooligans and organized crime found weapons there.
The wall outside is daubed in white and black paint with the name that the Partizan fans use for themselves: “the Gravediggers.”
The name is well deserved. Serbian soccer fans, at least those who in prepandemic days used to cram into the rowdy south stands of Partizan’s stadium and the equally anarchic north side of the arena used by its Belgrade archrivals, Red Star, have long had a reputation for extraordinary violence.
Partizan vice president who went public with accusations of government collusion with the arrested gang leader, has been savaged daily in tabloid newspapers supporting Mr. Vucic.
Ms. Brnabic denied the campaign was orchestrated by the government.
Also smeared by the tabloids has been Krik, a highly respected group of investigative journalists that has reported for years on links between government officials and Mr. Belivuk’s gang.
Stevan Dojcinovic, Krik’s editor in chief, said that organized crime in Serbia — and government officials — had long been tied to the “brutal force of nature” provided by soccer hooligans.
“Politicians have always been afraid of our hooligans. No matter who is in power they always form a partnership with them,” he said.