Montenegro PM faces charges over arms firm privatisation

Anti-corruption watchdog MANS files complaint against Montenegrin PM over links to ‘illegal’ privatisation deal

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic faces criminal charges after the country’s anti-corruption watchdog MANS filed a complaint following the findings of an investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) into the privatisation of the Montenegro Defence Industry (MDI) arms firm.

Speaking to BIRN, MANS spokesman Dejan Milovac said his organisation had collected and submitted evidence to the supreme state prosecution suggesting that state institutions had "gravely violated laws and procedures" during the sale of the MDI to a consortium comprising of the Serbian-owned CPR Impex and the Israeli-owned ATL Atlantic Technology.

"The situation in terms of the evidence that we submitted for the criminal charges is quite clear and does not leave much room for the prosecution but to immediately open an investigation into this case," Milovac said.

According to MANS, Prime Minister Djukanovic broke the country’s Law on Foreign Investments which limits private investment in state assets by foreign firms to a 49 percent share.

Although a revised version of the law later allowed foreign firms to become majority stakeholders, the €680,000 deal for the sale of the MDI was completed on March 4, two days before the new law was signed.

The BIRN probe also revealed the consortium’s links to Belgian businessmen Serge Muller, who is currently under investigation for alleged cocaine smuggling, money laundering and illegal arms trafficking to Libya after being arrested at the Albanian border on an Interpol Red Notice shortly after attending the signing ceremony in Montenegro.

The arrest warrant had been issued by Brussels just one day before the signing over Muller’s alleged connection to organised crime and corruption in Belgium.

“The arrest warrant against Muller said that he was suspected of criminal offences of ‘participation in a criminal organisation, illegal drug-trafficking and money laundering, punishable under the Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Belgium’," the High Court in the Montenegrin city of Podgorica told BIRN.

Muller’s involvement in the deal was originally stated to be as a representative of ATL Atlantic Technology, but MDI director Zoran Damjanovic later said his attendance at the signing ceremony was simply as “a friend of the Tel Aviv company.”

It is highly speculated that Muller, a well-known businessman from Antwerp and former co-owner of ATL Atlantic Technology’s subsidiary in Bulgaria, is the real power behind the Israeli firm’s CEO Agmon Shaked and a “financier” of the company, BIRN reported.

Muller has also in the past been linked to conflict diamonds imported from Sierra Leone as well as drug cartels and militant groups in Colombia.

Meanwhile, the MDI and CPR Impex owner Petar Crnogorac have additionally been investigated by the UN since April over allegations the firm’s subsidiary Tehnoremont illegally shipped weapons to militants in Libya - claims Crnogorac categorically denies.

Prime Minister Djukanovic, who agreed to the privatisation of the MDI, hit back at the allegations linking him to corruption, saying the MANS watchdog "knows nothing about the law."

TRTWorld and agencies