Ousted Prime Minister Urges Smuggling Probe

    Photo: Ivan Semenovych

    Montenegro’s outgoing prime minister, Dritan Abazovic, urged the state prosecutor to investigate tobacco smuggling, claiming that organized crime groups contributed to the no-confidence vote that brought him down in mid-August, reports Balkan Insight.

    Abazovic provided the prosecutor’s office with documents detailing schemes and naming individuals. According to the outgoing prime minister, cigarette smugglers have been funding political groups to further their causes. “I expect an avalanche to be triggered,” Abazovic told reporters on Sept. 5. “I had to show the roadmap of the tobacco smuggling in Montenegro.”

    In May 2019, a probe by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network showed how Montenegro had become a hub of global tobacco smuggling, funneling millions of counterfeit cigarettes into the EU with “ghost” ships, shell companies and forged paperwork.

    The Port of Bar is reportedly at the center of this illicit trade. In several large-scale operations in recent years, Montenegro police and customs seized hundreds of tons of smuggled cigarettes and more than two tons of cocaine in the port.

    Top officials are rumored to be complicit in the schemes.

    In April, Montenegrin police arrested Vesna Medenica, former head of the supreme court, on charges of illegal activities that included drug trafficking and tobacco smuggling.