Interview with Abazovic, November 2023. Photo: BIRN.

Politics, Smuggling, and Kosovo Relations, a Talk with Former Montenegrin PM Dritan Abazovic

Former Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dritan Abazovic, recently opened up in an interview, shedding light on a tangled web involving politics, narcotics, cigarette smuggling, and also discussed Montenegro's relations to Kosovo.

The fight against smuggling has been the key word of his government’s success, declared the former first Albanian PM of Montenegro Dritan Abazovic.

In an interview with the investigative journalist, Jeta Xharra Abazovic mentioned the fight against cigarette smuggling, which according to him had also landed in Kosovo, narcotics and political relations between Kosovo and Albania.

Abazovic also spoke about the non-extradition of the Serb Momqillo Vukotic, who is wanted by the Kosovo authorities on suspicion of committing war crimes during the war in Kosovo in 1999.

Abazovic said that they have not made extraditions even in Russia.

“We have not extradited even to Russia,” said Abazovic, while being asked by Jeta Xharra how he is comparing Kosovo with Russia.

“Absolutely not, I am not comparing it, but I have asked the Minister of Justice about this issue because we do not protect such people, but we have had several requests from Russia so far that some citizens of Ukraine who do not have I want to extradite them. This is our decision for the moment,” says Abazovic. 

“For the extradition process, each person has his own file, in that way it goes through several institutions in Montenegro and I think it is the same in Kosovo, we have also made decisions regarding these issues. This country is not ‘friendly’ either for people who have dealt with war crimes or criminality,” added Abazovic.

Vukotic, one of three war crimes suspects wanted by Kosovo who were recently arrested in Montenegro, was arrested on October 1.

Regarding contraband, he said that the Montenegrin Government has managed to seize about 200,000 packs of contraband cigarettes.

“We started the fight against cigarette smuggling, the biggest business that Montenegro has done in the last 30 years, a business that is measured at 500 million euros per year,” Abazovic said.

He added that with this he understood that stopping organized crime in Montenegro creates problems in the region.

“There are people in the region who are not satisfied with these results because a part of the cigarettes went through Rozhaje, it also came out in Kosovo, a part is also connected to people in the north of Kosovo,” he said.

He said that cigarette smugglers used Montenegro as a transit point.

He also said that these smuggled cigarettes are produced in Egypt and Lebanon and are destined for the West.

“They go to England, Germany, etc. We are a transit state, who does smuggling for 600,000 inhabitants,” says the former PM of Montenegro.

According to Abazovic, their data was not requested by the Government of Kosovo.

“We haven’t even specifically talked with [PM] Albin Kurti about cigarette smuggling. The part that went to Kosovo, according to the information we have, went to people who are known to the institutions of Kosovo, but whose names I will not mention,”said Abazovic.

“We have had good relations and cooperation with the regional police, which has been at a high level, I am speaking in general, I am not speaking about the issue of cigarette smuggling,” added the former PM.

Dritan Abazovic also spoke about the “Sky” application, created by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, EUROPOL.

“Sky” is an application, just like other social networks, but a little more specific, and with which the drug cartels communicated.

“Most of the drug cartels have communicated there with that application. At the moment when the narco-cartel in Europe has grown so much and has created an uncertainty for EU citizens, EUROPOL has opened this network,” said Abazovic. 

He added that there are also people from Kosovo who are part of the “Sky” network.

“I don’t know the numbers, but there are also many people from Kosovo who are part of this network. There are people from Kosovo who are also connected with cigarette smuggling, but I can’t say from which sphere they are,” said Abazovic.

He added that the “Sky” network has helped Montenegro reach many people.

“We received over 600,000 messages in just one case, and the Prosecutor’s Office has been working on this for 5 years. I am the only prime minister who asked for help from EUROPOL, they were surprised how I asked for help from them, they did not have faith in the institutions of Montenegro,” said the former Montenegrin PM. 

But did Kosovo ask Montenegro for help in this matter?

“I was ready to help Kosovo regarding this matter, but this issue has not been resolved, maybe they have their own investigations,” says Abazovic.

“They have more funds in banks or ‘cash’ than the state of Montenegro. The treasury of Montenegro has 150 million, while only one of them can have 400-500 million euros in the bank account, certainly even more,” said Abazovic. 

Abazovic also spoke about money laundering, a phenomenon that is happening both in Kosovo and in Montenegro, but also in the region.

“[Albin Kurti] has shown that interest, but also for other issues of what happened in Kosovo, we also have that problem in Montenegro”, said Abazovic.

Former PM of Montenegro, Dritan Abazovic, has spoken about the attack in Banjska in the north of Kosovo.

He said that although they are part of NATO, they did not have any information about this attack before it happened.

“We would definitely help the institutions of Kosovo if we had known what is planned to happen in Banjska. But even after it happened, we don’t have any more information about it. We also talked with the internationals as much as we could, including the Berlin Process”, said Abazovic.

He also  commented on the statements of the Albanian PM, Edi Rama, who said that the mission of NATO in Kosovo, KFOR, should take control of the north of Kosovo.

“I think that the institutions of Kosovo should have full control in their territory and this is our position from the beginning. Montenegro has recognised Kosovo with its clear borders. Everything else was unacceptable for me personally,” said Abazovic.

He claimed that Edi Rama is ‘a good politician’ and that according to him he works for peace in the region. 

“He tries, works to give a peaceful context to this region. And I don’t like some interpretations coming from Kosovo regarding Edi Rama, I don’t think he is the enemy of Kosovo, I don’t think he makes conspiracy theories with Vucic or anyone else,” he said.

Dritan Abazovic had a technical mandate, after his government was ousted through a motion of no confidence in August 2022.

On October 31, the Assembly of Montenegro elected the Government of PM Millojko Spajic.

06/11/2023 - 14:06

06 November 2023 - 14:06

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