Montenegro President denies role in money laundering ring

President Milo Djukanovic at a press conference in Cetinje, Montenegro. Photo: EPA-EFE / BORIS PEJOVIC

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic on Wednesday denied having any dealings with Albanian oil businessman Rezart Taci, accused in Albania of being involved in an international money laundering program.

On November 13, BIRN published Taci’s wiretap conversations in which the Albanian businessman said he implicated Djukanovic in money transfers to Montenegro’s Prva bank.

“It’s a completely fabricated affair. I don’t know who the people are, and I haven’t had any contact with them… it’s a complete fake, but these fakes have become a kind of practice in political life in Montenegro, ”Djukanovic said during the interview. a press conference in Cetinje. after meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda.

On November 12, the Albanian Special Prosecutor’s Office against Corruption, SPAK, issued an arrest warrant for Taci, accused with four Italian citizens and two accomplices in money laundering and leading a structured criminal group.

According to SPAK, the group laundered the profits of Italian oil companies via Albania in exchange for a share of the money. A Palermo court is also investigating whether Thaci and several Italian citizens have laundered more than 20 million euros.

The media reported that Taci has teamed up with a group of Italian citizens to transfer around € 20 million to Albanian bank accounts so that they are not blocked by the Italian police.

BIRN published Taci’s wiretapping conversations in which he said Djukanovic would help him transfer the money to Prva Bank, owned by his brother, Aco Djukanovic.

On Tuesday, Prva Banka denied the charges, saying the media was trying to cause damage to the bank and its shareholders.

In 2016, a European Parliament resolution urged Montenegro to investigate and prosecute “high-level cases, including suspected money laundering by Prva Banka (First Bank)”.

The state bank was privatized in 2006 and sold to Djukanovic’s family. His government has since invested huge sums of state money in it while the opposition and some NGOs have accused the bank of laundering organized crime money and granting bad debts to criminals and of Djukanovic’s allies.

These loans not having been repaid, Djukanovic bailed out the bank in 2008 by forcing parliament to pass a special law granting him 40 million euros.

An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, said there was no evidence that the bailout loans were repaid and that, to provide the necessary liquidity to the insolvent bank, Djukanovic sold the state-owned electricity company, EPCG, and hijacked the product to the bank.

The bank has never been investigated by the Montenegrin authorities.

Montenegro’s special prosecutor’s office on Wednesday said it had opened an investigation into the money laundering case, while Djukanovic said he would respond to any call from the prosecution.

“It will only take a few days for the case to collapse like a card trick. Today no one mentions Pandora’s papers, and they [soon] not this Albanian affair either, ”Djukanovic said.

On October 22, the Montenegrin prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the alleged Pandora Papers Results, who revealed that Djukanovic and his son, Blazo, had placed money in offshore accounts through two trusts.

Earlier, on October 4, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed how a Swiss trust company helped Djukanovic set up two British Virgin Islands tax trusts in 2012. According to Montenegrin NGO MANS, the Victoria Trust named Djukanovic as beneficiary, while the Capecastel Trust named his son, Blazo.

Djukanovic told the media that he built trust when he was not in public service and engaged in his own affairs.

About Brandon A. Hood

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