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News 18 May 15

Montenegro Prosecution Urged to Probe Arms Firm Sale

An anti-corruption watchdog has filed criminal charges against Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic following an investigation by BIRN into the privatisation of the country’s largest arms exporter.

Dusica Tomovic

Prominent watchdog MANS urged the supreme state prosecution on Monday to open an investigation into the sale of Montenegro Defence Industry, MDI.

In an investigation published last month, BIRN revealed how the new owners of the firm were linked to a series of criminal investigations. 

Dejan Milovac of MANS told BIRN that his organisation had submitted evidence that state institutions had "gravely violated laws and procedures" during the privatisation process.

MANS filed a criminal complaint against Djukanovic in his role as the head of the National Council for Privatisation and Capital Projects, the body that approves privatization of state-owned companies.

It also filed a complaint against the president of the tender commission for privatisation, Branko Vujovic, who it accuses of allowing the "illegal" sale of MDI. 

In the criminal complaint, MANS claims that Djukanovic and Vujovic facilitated the sale of MDI to a Serbian-Israeli consortium, contrary to the Law on Foreign Investments which states that foreigners can only own a maximum stake of 49 per cent.

MANS argues that the tender commission awarded the deal to the consortium of CPR Impex and ATL Atlantic Technology two days before a new law allowing foreign firms to take majority shareholdings came into force.

The government has rejected the allegations, saying that the Montenegrin NGO, which is well known, outspoken critic of the Prime Minister, "knows nothing about the law".

MDI was sold official on March 4 to Belgrade-based CPR Impex and Israeli ATL Atlantic Technology Ltd for 680,000 euro.  

A BIRN investigation revealed that the consortium is linked to Belgian businessmen Serge Muller, embroiled in criminal investigations into alleged drug smuggling, money laundering and arms trafficking.

Muller, a well-known figure in Europe’s diamond capital of Antwerp, was arrested just hours after leaving the signing ceremony in Podgorica as he attempted to cross the border to Albania on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice issued from Brussels the previous day.

In Belgium, he is facing charges of participating in a cocaine smuggling ring, having links to organised crime and money laundering.

Zoran Damjanovic, the director of MDI, initially confirmed that Muller visited MDI’s offices in Podgorica as an ATL Atlantic representative but later said that the Belgian businessman was present as “a friend of the Tel Aviv company”. 

MANS also submitted the complete BIRN investigation to the prosecution, calling for BIRN's findings to be investigated.

"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.

"There is no doubt that this case will be one of the first tests of for the Supreme Public Prosecutor Ivica Stankovic, who was recently appointed to the position," he added. 

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