IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, No. 470, November 27, 2003



Interpol warrants issued against three prominent figures, but
extradition to Italy or trials in Montenegro look very unlikely.

By Dragana Nikolic-Solomon in Belgrade, Boris Darmanovic in Podgorica
and Hugh Griffiths in Sweden

IWPR has learned that Italian police have issued international warrants
for the arrest of three leading Montenegrins accused of involvement in
an international cigarette smuggling ring. But few believe they will be
brought to trial.

A source at Interpol's Italian office in Rome confirmed to IWPR on
November 26 that arrest warrants had been issued for Veselin Barovic,
Dusanka Jeknic and Branko Vujosevic. The source said the charges
included money laundering and cigarette smuggling.

Vujosevic is former tobacco factory director in the Montenegrin capital
Podgorica, and Barovic is a well-known businessman in the city. Jeknic
is a former Montenegrin trade mission representative in Milan.

Montenegrin police confirmed that they had received warrants - but only
two, against Vujosevic and Barovic. A source in Interpol's Belgrade
office - which covers Montenegro as well as Serbia - said that the
third warrant, against Jeknic, was now on its way to Podgorica.

The Interpol warrants are thought to have been prompted by long-running
investigations by two Italian anti-mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Russo in
Naples and Guiseppe Scelsi in Bari, into the role allegedly played by
senior Montenegrins in the cigarette smuggling trade which thrived
during the Nineties.

Specifically, analysts in the Balkans believe that the warrants are
linked with a formal arrest request document issued by a Naples
investigating judge, which was made public on June 30. That document
lists 11 Italians and four Montenegrins - including Barovic, Jeknic,
Vujosevic and the current prime minister, Milo Djukanovic.

It alleges that the 15 were responsible for "forming, directing and
organising a smuggling network trafficking foreign cigarettes into,
through and out of Montenegro".

The investigating judge, Anna Di Mauro, decided not to issue a warrant
for Djukanovic's detention because he may be able to claim immunity
because of his political position.

When news of the Naples document broke, Djukanovic firmly rejected the
suggestion that he was in any way involved. Barovic and Jeknic were
also vehement in denying that there was any truth in the allegations
against them. As far as IWPR is aware, Vujosevic did not comment at the

After learning of the Interpol warrants, IWPR repeatedly attempted to
contact Barovic, Vujosevic and Jeknic, but their phones did not respond
and appeared to be switched off. Vujosevic had earlier refused to
comment to local media about the Interpol request.

Police and legal experts in Serbia and Montenegro agree that the
likelihood of the three facing and Italian or Montenegrin court are
slim, for both legal and political reasons.

An IWPR source from the central Interpol office in Belgrade confirmed
on 26 November that Interpol had served the Serbia and Montenegro
authorities with "red notices", which are used in cases where
extradition is to be sought.

However, the Constitution of Serbia and Montenegro forbids the
extradition of its citizens to other states, with the Hague war crimes
tribunal the only exception.

The Interpol source in Belgrade said that the next step was for
Montenegrin police to confirm the citizenship of those wanted on the
red notice. IWPR understands that Barovic, Vujosevic and Jeknic are all
nationals of Serbia and Montenegro.

If extradition to Italy is not an option, the only way that legal
proceedings can take place is if Montenegrin police and judicial
authorities receive details of the charges and evidence from their
Italian counterparts, and then decide whether to file criminal charges

Mihailo Pejovic, who is chief of the criminology department in the
Montenegrin police, told IWPR that at the moment the police are "under
no obligation to interrogate or arrest the two indictees [Barovic and
Vujosevic]. Only when we receive evidence that they have committed a
criminal act can we arrest them, if this evidence is valid."

He said the police were now waiting to hear whether criminal charges
had been brought against the two in Italy, and if so, what the basis
was for such charges. He indicated that Montenegro would not actively
seek this information from the Italians, but would wait for it to be

"If criminal charges can be tried under our local legislation, we will
press charges against them," he said.

Svetozar Jovicevic, the deputy head of the Group for Changes, a leading
non-government think-tank in Montenegro, is in no doubt that Italian
prosecutors will deliver the relevant information about the Barovic and
Vujosevic cases, although he warned that such procedures could be

But even if the Montenegrin authorities obtain this material, Jovicevic
thinks it is unlikely that "local courts could adequately deal with
such a case".

Barovic and Vujosevic are seen as powerful figures in Montenegro, and
together with Jeknic are reported to have been close associates of

Balkan analysts say Montenegro's judiciary has a poor record of dealing
with high-profile and controversial cases that also have political

There is some evidence to support that claim. A recent case in which a
Moldovan woman accused senior Montenegrin officials of involvement in
human trafficking and other abuses collapsed in May this year, when -
despite extensive testimony given by the woman and detailed medical
reports - criminal proceedings were shelved, officially because of lack
of evidence. The international community - including legal experts at
the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe - criticised both police and judiciary for their
handling of the case. The investigating judge, Ana Vukovic, has claimed
that she was harassed by the state security service because of the case.

Although the government has since said that there might be a re-trial,
the strong impression that the case collapsed under political pressure
has tarnished the judiciary as an independent institution.

An IWPR source close to the Montenegrin police, who asked not to be
named, said that Italian prosecutors had two options - to pass evidence
to local prosecutors and then see whether they are prepared to press
charges, or to sit tight in the hope that their suspects travel outside
the Serbia and Montenegro state union so that they can be arrested
elsewhere. The Interpol source in Belgrade confirmed that the latter
was a possibility, saying,"If they put so much as a toe outside
Montenegro - going to Croatia or Bosnia - they will be arrested."

Whatever the outcome, the case - driven by Italian prosecutors
apparently determined to pursue their investigations into cross-border
trafficking - is unlikely to die down, and will remain an embarrassment
to the already tarnished Montenegrin state.

"This case will contribute to the negative international image of
Montenegro," said Jovicevic.

He says Montenegro has a record of crimes that were connected directly
or indirectly with the authorities - and that is "very worrying".

Dragana Nikolic-Solomon is IWPR Country Director for Serbia and
Montenegro, Boris Darmanovic is IWPR Project Manager in Podgorica, and
Hugh Griffiths is an investigations coordinator with IWPR.


Balkan Crisis Report is supported by the Department for International
Development, the European Commission, the Swedish International
Development and Cooperation Agency, The Netherlands Ministry for
Foreign Affairs, and other funders. IWPR also acknowledges general
support from the Ford Foundation.

For further details on this project, other information services and
media programmes, visit IWPR's website: www.iwpr.net

ISSN: 1477-7932 Copyright (c) 2003 The Institute for War & Peace