Government paid for the 250,000-euro costed defence of former minister charged with involvement in cigarette-smuggling in Italy, newspaper reveals.
According to the daily newspaper Vijesti on Wednesday, drawing on data obtained by the law on free access to public information, the government paid the legal fees for the trial of Miroslav Ivanisevic, finance minister from 1998 to 2004 and deputy prime minister from 2004 to 2006.
A court in Bari, Italy, accused him of being connected to crime group engaged in cigarette smuggling and money laundering.
The Italian court acquitted him in 2010, in a move seen as putting a lid on frequent claims concerning Montenegro's involvement in cigarette smuggling rackets.
The government paid for his defence “because the case was connected to activities which Ivanisevic undertook as a member of the Government and, hence, it was significant for Montenegro’s international position”, Vijesti says it was told.
Although other Montenegrins were under investigation in Italy for alleged roles in cigarette smuggling, only Ivanisevic stood trial there.
An investigation against Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro’s former prime minister and leader of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists, was dropped in 2009.
Following his acquittal, Ivanisevic sought damages from the Italian authorities related to the unfounded indictment.
The government told Vijesti that it expects to get its 250,000 euro back, once the compensation for damages is paid.
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