Montenegro’s high court has upheld a ruling against Veselin Pejovic, owner of the Kombinat Aluminijuma Podgorica (KAP), who was sentenced to one year of parole or five months in jail for hitting opposition leader Nebojsa Medojevic.
Pejovic is one of the biggest businessmen in Montenegro. His company Uniprom is active mainly in the trade, tourism and metals sectors. Within the last 18 months, it has acquired two of the biggest bankrupt companies in Montenegro - aluminium smelter KAP and mining firm Rudnici Boksita - in disputed deals.
A lower court originally sentenced Pejovic on April 16, after finding him guilty of hitting and spitting at Medojevic, leader of the Movement for Changes (PzP) party. Pejovic was detained by police for 48 hours on February 23, two days after the incident at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport.
In a statement after his release from police custody, Pejovic said he had hit Medojevic in response to the opposition leader’s lies about him and his family. According to Pejovic, Medojevic had accused him of being a representative of drug cartels.
The lower court judge said that evidence and footage from the airport proved beyond doubt that Pejovic had committed the criminal offence of endangering safety. RTCG reported on November 20 that the Montenegrin high court had upheld the original verdict.
The acquisition of Montenegro’s largest industrial company, KAP, by Pejovic’s Uniprom is also the subject of a legal dispute.
Uniprom signed the deal to buy the bankrupt aluminium smelter on June 10, 2014 for €28mn. However, its former owner, Cyprus-based Central European Aluminum Company Holding (CEAC), which is owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s En+ Group, has launched international arbitration against the Montenegrin government over the company.
CEAC, which acquired a controlling stake in KAP in 2005, said in October 2014 that its investments in and management of the company were systematically undermined by the Montenegrin government, culminating in "the illegal expropriation, and sale of KAP's assets in July 2014”.
Uniprom’s acquisition of bankrupt mining firm Rudnici Boksita in September also met a negative reaction from trade unions that wanted guarantees that all workers will keep their jobs. Unions have called on the government to cancel the deal if Pejovic does not comply with their demands.
Medojevic is also no stranger to controversy. In addition to his claims about Pejovic, Medojevic recently accused prime minister Milo Djukanovic and other top government officials of links to organised crime, including arms trafficking to terrorist organisations.
The accusations were made after Montenegrin citizen Vlatko Vucelic was arrested in Germany with weapons in his car, nine days before the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
In a November 15 statement, PzP called on the special state prosecutor for investigation of organised crime, Milivoje Katnic, to investigate top officials over alleged connections to sales of weapons to Hamas, the Islamic State (IS), Al Qaida and FARC.
The following day, the government issued a statement denying the claims and saying it would file a defamation claim against the PzP leader.