Charges Await Djukanovic?

Published: 03 November 2009

By Michael

The Bari prosecutor leading the Italian investigation of Milo Djukanovic’s involvement in illegal cigarette trafficking has told Montenegrin media that the country’s Prime Minister, who currently enjoys diplomatic immunity, could face charges once he leaves office. “Milo Djukanovic is being protected by immunity while he is the prime minister and chief of state. The moment he no longer has immunity, he will be able to be tried in a special procedure, different from the one that involves seven citizens from Montenegro and Serbia, which began on Nov. 11,” Giuseppe Scelsi told the Podgorica daily Dan.

Djukanovic has been under investigation by Italian authorities for cigarette smuggling since 2001. In 2003 a judge denied a request by prosecutors for a warrant for Djukanovic’s arrest on the grounds that he had immunity as a foreign head of state.

Scelsi said the charges would have to follow preliminary hearings held by a new judge to determine the basis for Djukanovic’s indictment.

Djukanovic Scorns Probe

Djukanovic recently characterized Scelsi’s investigation as “without arguments or legal basis,” and said that he would sue the prosecutor, who he said used Djukanovic’s immunity “as an emergency exit from the uncomfortable circumstances of leading a ten-year investigation without arguments.”

Scelsi refused to comment on Djukanović’s public statements, saying he would “wait for the official reaction of his attorney.”

Djukanovic could faces charges of organized criminal activity in the illicit trafficking of tobacco, among others. These charges stem from an indictment filed October of last year by the Anti-Mafia directorate in Bari that named Djukanovic, along with seven other Montenegrin and Serbian nationals who are now on trial in Bari.

In March of 2008 Djukanovic gave testimony to prosecutors in Bari, and was questioned for more than six hours. During his testimony, Djukanovic invoked his diplomatic immunity. In February of the same year he had reassumed his post as Prime Minister of Montenegro only months after announcing his retirement from politics.

--Michael Mehen