Montenegro spent €25mn to help politicians and magistrates buy property

Montenegro spent €25mn to help politicians and magistrates buy property
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia April 21, 2021

Former governments in Montenegro allowed 175 politicians and magistrates to acquire apartments using loans issued under favourable conditions, Interior Minister Dritan Abazovic said on April 21. According to the minster, Montenegro’s authorities have discovered evidence of the transactions even though a significant part of the documentation has been destroyed. 

Montenegro’s new government, which took office in December, announced its top priority was to reveal all corrupt schemes carried out under former governments led by President Milo Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). The DPS has ruled the country for over three decades before losing the general election in August 2020.

According to Vanja Calovic Markovic, the head of the national body for the fight against high-level corruption, previous governments gave out apartments and loans to magistrates and political figures, in breach of the law, and with a total cost of around €25mn.

She added that the council has so far gathered evidence on such loans over the past 10 years, with loans worth €4.6mn being distributed in the past four years alone by the DPS-led government under former prime minister Dusko Markovic.

Markovic added that 580 people have been granted cheap loans for apartment purchases, including the 175 political figures and magistrates and 405 people working at the state administration.

Abazovic commented that the case concerns typical high-level corruption.

“What Mrs. Calovic Markovic has shown us is classic corruption. Where in the world the government can allocate apartments to judges of the constitutional court? How then can we expect decisions by the constitutional court? How many of the decisions of the constitutional court were delayed? How many cases were shelved by the constitutional court and will never see the light of day until some other judges arrive,” Abazovic commented.

He added that this was just one segment related to the apartment purchases and that the anti-corruption body is working on other cases too.

This is not the first case of corruption revealed by Abazovic in the past months. In March, he accused chief special prosecutor Milivoje Katnic of blocking several investigations into cases involving Djukanovic. His government sought to remove Katnic but backed down after criticisms from EU bodies. 

Among other top politicians, ex-interior minister Mevludin Nuhodzic was named in connection to an investigation into the procurement of border monitoring equipment. In February, Abazovic revealed that the borders with Albania and Croatia are not well protected following alleged fraud in a deal to buy equipment including radar and cameras for border monitoring.

Under Nuhodzic, the ministry acquired border monitoring equipment that was much cheaper than what had been agreed, which led to the embezzlement of over €1mn from a EU grant, Abazovic said. According to the deputy prime minister, the equipment has not worked for more than a year and a half, leaving the borders unprotected.

In early March, the government replaced several senior police officers over alleged connections to organised crime. The government removed then deputy police head Zoran Lazovic, who was accused by the ruling coalition of ties to organised crime. Media speculation about Lazovic’s alleged ties to organised crime groups started back in 2010 when a video was released showing him at the wedding of alleged Montenegrin drug trafficker Safet Kalic. Lazovic has denied allegations of being involved in organised crime.