Thursday, April 30, 2009
Italy drops charges against Montenegro's Djukanovic
ROME, Italy -- Prosecutors have dropped charges against Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic over his alleged involvement in cigarette smuggling, the justice ministry announced on Wednesday (April 29th). Poised to assume a fifth term as prime minister, Djukanovic enjoys diplomatic immunity. In 2007, prosecutors in the town of Bari informed him that he might become a defendant in a lawsuit related to cigarette smuggling between 1994 and 2002. He has been avoiding trial because of his immunity. Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic, who was killed by a car bomb in October 2008, was a key witness in the case. (Ansa, Makfax - 29/04/09)
He was first on a list of 15 suspects which includes some of his closest aides, but also shadowy underworld figures from the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere, the Croatian weekly Nacional said.
In 2003, prosecutors combatting organized crime asked judges in Naples to issue a warrant for Djukanovic's arrest, but the motion was turned down owing to his diplomatic immunity.
He and Podgorica officials claimed that hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of cigarettes only transited Montenegro, which had been under a 1990s United Nations trade embargo as a part of Yugoslavia.
Set to become a fifth time, with only a five-year presidential term interrupting his direct rule over Montenegro, Djukanovic relinquished the office only once, after elections in late 2006.
Though his Democratic Party of Socialists then also won, Djukanovic, 47, said he wanted to retire from politics and run his businesses.
However, after reportedly receiving notification in 2007 that he may be indicted in Italy, he returned to the office in early 2008, replacing his heir, Zeljko Sturanovic.
Last year Djukanovic volunteered a visit the court in Bari, which handles the case, to testify. His cabinet had said that Djukanovic answered questions over six-and-a-half hours.
It was neither immediately clear when the Bari court would move against other suspects in the case, nor whether it would unpack Djukanovic's file from the archives when he loses or gives immunity.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:55 PM