Serbian police have arrested 53 people in an anti-corruption sweep, the interior minister said Wednesday, just several weeks before a presidential election.
Thirteen police employees as well as agricultural ministry staff were among the dozens detained, accused of corrupt activities through which they stole more than 10 million euros ($10.5 million), Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said.
"This operation demonstrates that the state is committed to fighting crime and corruption and that nobody who has committed crimes will be protected," he told state broadcaster RTS.
The move comes with a presidential election expected to take place next month, with current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic planning to run for head of state.
It also comes two days after Serbia opened two new chapters in accession negotiations with the European Union, which has called on the Balkan country to do more to tackle corruption.
The latest EU progress report on Serbia said the "serious" problem remained prevalent in many areas and that the "anti-corruption effort has yet to yield meaningful results".
Although the government has carried out similar anti-corruption sweeps in recent years, its critics say the multiple arrests have failed to target any of the country's biggest offenders.
Police arrested 46 people, including 16 traffic policemen, in March last year, a few weeks before a parliamentary election.