Montenegro’s police, prosecutors at loggerheads over officer arrests

Montenegro’s police, prosecutors at loggerheads over officer arrests
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia March 1, 2016

Opposition parties and NGOs have asked Montenegro’s prime minister Milo Djukanovic to immediately fire police chief Slavko Stojanovic after he accused prosecutors of illegally arresting two top police officers.

The arrests were connected to the disappearance of key evidence in an investigation concerning the former president of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic. Corruption was one of the main concerns listed in the European Commission’s latest progress report on Montenegro, which noted the need for a credible track record in fighting high-level graft.

The conflict between Stojanovic and the prosecution erupted after on February 28 the Special Prosecution arrested the head of the police department for the prevention of organized crime and corruption, Dalibor Medojevic, and one of its inspectors, Nikola Terzic, on suspicions that they were involved in the disappearance of evidence in a case against local businessman Veselin Mujovic.

Mujovic, 69, was arrested in February on suspicions of receiving €800,000 from Marovic, in exchange for favourable treatment in a corruption case in which Marovic is the prime suspect.

Marovic was arrested on December 17 on reasonable doubt that he was involved in the so-called "Budva affair". The case concerns the construction and management of the Plaza shopping mall in Budva, a joint project between the municipality and a private company, Trade Unique. Marovic has been under investigation for four years on suspicion of abuse of office leading to suspected damages of over €120mn. 

Following the arrest of the two police officers, the police directorate issued a statement, claiming that the arrests were ordered illegally and that the prosecution attacked the personal, professional and family integrity of Medojevic and Terzic.

In an open letter to Djukanovic, the NGO Gradjanska Alijansa (Civil Alliance) said that the police’s demand for the government to protect it from prosecution is a demonstration of disrespect for the law and threatens the rule of law in the country.

“The police directorate, which is supposed to protect the law, dared to publicly request to stay above the law, to judge and to put pressure on the other branches of the judiciary system,” GA said in the letter, which was posted on its website.

The opposition SNP has also called on Djukanovic to dismiss Stojnovic following the police statement. According to the SNP's Snezana Jonica, a member of the parliamentary and judiciary committee, with the police statement Stojanovic has shown that he does not respect and understand the laws in Montenegro, news service CDM reported.