Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Montenegro: Berlusconi accused of electoral 'meddling'

Podgorica, 16 March – Montenegro's political opposition on Monday accused Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi of interfering in the local campaign for political elections to be held on 29 March. It also said Berlusconi's meeting with Montenegro's current premier and so-called political 'godfather' Milo Djukanovic sent "a bad message that organised crime pays off."

Berlusconi was to arrive for a surprise visit to Podgorica late Monday for talks with president Filip Vujanovic and Djukanovic, known as Montegro's political 'godfather'.

A controversial figure, Djukanovic has already served four terms as prime minister and one term as president, but he resigned in 2006 to dedicate himself to his business interests.

Montenegro's opposition leaders have claimed Djukanovic accumulated millions of euros in investment and banking schemes between 2006 and 2008.

Berlusconi was also to meet Italian language students, but refused to meet politicians from Montenegro's opposition parties.

Nebojsa Medojevic, president of the opposition Movement for Changes party, said he requested a meeting with Berlusconi through the Italian embassy in Podgorica, but Berlusconi had declined the request.

Medojevic said the embassy replied that Berlusconi would meet “only with representatives of official institutions”.

Medojevic said that Berlusconi's visit came at a “very sensitive moment at the end of a parliamentary election campaign and everything should be done to avoid a possible political manipulation of the visit."

Djukanovic has been investigated by Italian prosecutors for his alleged role in a multimillion dollar mob-run cigarette smuggling racket to Italy in the 1990s and for money laundering.

But the case was dropped after he became prime minister again last February.

Medojevic said that Berlusconi’s visit was a “private arrangement with some people at the pinnacle of power”.

"We are disappointed that the Italian premier is meeting ahead of the election with a man who was indicted by the Italian judiciary," Medojevic said.

"That could only send a message that organized crime pays off."

Montenegro foreign ministry said in a statement that relations between Rome and Podgorica were “excellent” and that Berlusconi’s visit was a “support to their further development."


Anonymous said...

corruption breeds corruption!

There is a deal developing between these two cronies, one where Italy will drop all charges against Milo after he resigns as Premier.

Just read between the lines here, let's not be ignorant.

Anonymous said...

According to a 240-page internal report compiled in 1997 by the Guardia di Finanza (Italian Border/Customs Police and Financial Police, is also a Military Police Corp), Montenegro was part of smuggling hierarchy divided among various crime families connected to Sicilian mafia, Camorra and Sacra corona unita organized crime syndicates. The report claimed that tobacco smuggling in Europe caused an estimated $700 million annually in losses to governments and legitimate merchants.

Various reports implicate Đukanović in doing business with different Mafia bosses like Neapolitan Camorra's Ciro Mazzarella who was arrested in 1993 in Lugano.

Since then, other mafia figures like Francesco Prudentino, Gerardo Cuomo, Filippo Messina, etc. connected to the highest echelons of Italian organized crime operated out of Montenegro closely tied to Đukanović's government.

In 1996, Italy's Anti-mafia Investigative Agency taped a telephone conversation between Cuomo and Santo Vantaggiato, a fugitive from Italian law hiding in Montenegro. The two men were discussing the election in Montenegro, and Cuomo boasted that he was close to senior Montenegrin politicians. He mentioned that if his "friends" got in, he would be "much stronger." Vantaggiato was murdered in Montenegro two years later in a mafia war.

In July 2003, the prosecutor's office in Naples named Đukanović as a linchpin in the illicit trade which used Montenegro as a transit point for smuggling millions of cigarettes across the Adriatic sea into Italy and into the hands of the Italian mafia for distribution across the EU.

Among other things, the court mentioned that Đukanović showed "ruthlessness and insidiousness" in his efforts to destroy evidence and sabotage the investigation.

This detail about Đukanović's motives was absent from most news reports about the referendum. The international media has largely ignored other scandals that may be related to Đukanović, such as the murder of the founder and chief editor of Montenegro's only opposition newspaper, Dan, a new white slavery scandal involving members of Đukanović government, and Đukanović’s alleged association with gangster and former jean forger Stanko Subotic Cane. The only scandal mentioned at all was his vote-buying scheme but even that was described in some reports as the usual so-called Serbian lie