Interview for Monitor: AT THE BEGINNING


Author: Milena Perović

MONITOR: What is your opinion on the appointment of Milorad Marković as the Supreme State Prosecutor?

MANS was one of the rare voices on the public scene that asked the then candidate, and today’s Supreme State Prosecutor (SSP), for answers to key questions regarding his capacities and readiness to hold one of the most important offices in the state in the coming period. This is all the more so since in the period preceding the voting in the Parliament, we neither heard enough convincing arguments from Marković, nor could we find them in his biography. There is no obvious conflict of interest related to possible future proceedings for war crimes in his biography. In addition, in his career so far, the now-elected SSP has not shown a serious willingness to publicly point out the numerous anomalies that have burdened Montenegrin society in the last three decades, especially when it comes to corruption in the electoral processes which he actively monitored until 2020. Because of this, with such a work history, MANS expressed suspicions regarding the capacities of the SSP to deal with what will be the key challenges of judicial reform – removal of the organized crime structures from the ranks of prosecutors.

However, the time ahead will show to what extent the SSP Marković will have the capacity, political will, expertise and above all the courage to reopen cases such as “The First Million”, “Pandora Papers”, illegal donations and all those cases that have been closed or are still waiting to be adequately processed. It is precisely these cases that continue to burden Montenegro’s European path, and continuously keep it in the ranks of countries that do not have a functional rule of law, and are unable to guarantee justice to their citizens.

MONITOR: Following the appointment of other leading people in the judiciary, the authorities point out the election of the SSP as an important achievement when it comes to the country’s EU integration, i.e. meeting the criteria of chapters 23 and 24. Nevertheless, where do we stand on that road to closing these chapters?

I think that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, and that unlocking the SSP office is just the beginning. How good will the begging be remains to be seen after the public gets a clear message from that office in relation to what are the key cases of high corruption, but also what the first steps regarding the so-called “clearing” of the State Prosecutor’s Office will be. I believe that we cannot expect sustainable results in the fight against corruption and organized crime as key preconditions for closing the mentioned chapters until we have a State Prosecutor’s Office that has been cleared of the tentacles of organized crime, and no less important – of the influence of political parties that after the removal of Milo Đukanović’s regime was not reduced, but only changed the actors. The tasks Montenegro is facing are quite clear, and their fulfilment will be a true measure of the existence of political will to change the current situation.

On the other hand, over the past somewhat more than three years, we have lost too much time and opportunities for Montenegrin society to stand up on its hind legs, thus, instead of strengthening the state institutions, the officials of the new government strengthened party bastions and built the voter base in order to grab more power for themselves in the next elections. In this context, it is no surprise that the fight against corruption is also misused and turned into light entertainment for the masses in order to “gain additional political points”.

​That is why no one poses questions anymore on whose cocaine was in the warehouse of Voli and Mojanović, why there has been no continuation of the investigation after the acquittals, or where the trucks with cigarettes from the Free Zone of Port of Bar ended up, which were supposed to be destroyed but were not.

In this sense, the messages of the European Commission from the latest report on Montenegro are clear to those who want to hear them – that sustainable results in the fight against corruption and organized crime require final judgements and a functional judiciary free from political influence.

MONITOR: MANS stated that data from the Transparency International (TI) report on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for the previous year showed that Montenegro improved its position by one point compared to 2022. What does that imply?

We saw that this ranking was by one point better compared the previous year, but still at the level of what we had the opportunity to see during the supreme reign of DPS, when the political will to fight corruption was at a minimum. In that sense, an improvement by one point is not something that any government should be proud of, especially not the one whose mouth was filled with promises about justice and the fight against the mafia – up until they got a chance to do something concrete about it.

After the dismissal of the DPS’ government, the expectations of the citizens were rightly high, both when it comes to the recovery of the economy, and when it comes to the fight against corruption and the correction of all the injustices on which the previous regime rested. Although a period of just over three years is really insufficient to solve the accumulated issues of Montenegrin society, I believe that there has been more than enough time to lay sound foundations. Unfortunately, the parties of the new ruling majority had other priorities that had nothing to do with what were the clearly stated expectations of the citizens after the 2020 elections.

​However, too little has been done to restore citizens’ trust in institutions, and to send a message to the organized crime that there are no more addresses in the public sector they can count on when it comes to further captivity of institutions. That is why even this minor progress on the rankings is actually an indicator of the complete defeat of the “reformed” state system and the parties of the new majority, from which much more was expected.  

MONITOR: Why, as you said, there is still not enough political momentum among the government leaders to deliver significant and sustainable results in the fight against corruption after DPS’ ruling?

The answer to that question is easy, but it is not pleasant – because they do not wish to do so. This is clear at every step, starting from the latest election of the SSP, which is quite obviously the product of political trade, the results of which we will see during the announced reconstruction of the government of Milojko Spajić, up until certain departments of the executive power that are continuing in the footsteps of the DPS by actively sabotaging the fight against corruption and organized crime.

This relates primarily to the fact that we still do not have a reformed legislative framework for the fight against corruption, including the Law on Free Access to Information, the Law on Prevention of Corruption, as well as the continuous refusal to adequately sanction illicit enrichment and legally regulate the confiscation of property acquired in such manner. Institutions that are perceived as the first line of defence against corruption, such as the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, are still unreformed and trapped by an administration that lacks both political will and courage to do its job. And apparently, as such, they trouble no one. The same applies to the State Audit Institution and a whole series of the so-called “independent institutions” in which the henchmen of the previous regime still sit.

Looking back at the so-called “results” over the past three years, it is quite clear that the new majority of all convocations of the executive and parliamentary powers after the fall of DPS did not pass a single regulation that would effectively prevent the continuation of harmful practices from the previous period, or increase the space for civil control of the government.

When we look at the extent to which not only political employment has been normalized, but also an open lobbying by parties for a candidate in the judiciary, it is clear that we still do not have a ruling majority that understands that right now is the moment when we need to lay the foundations for increasing of transparency and better mechanisms for fight against corruption.

You will very rarely hear anyone from the executive or legislative branches mention (except for daily political purposes) any of the major corruption cases associated with the previous government. When was the last time you heard someone talk about the corrupt privatization of the Aluminium Plant Podgorica, or the Telekom affair, the Abu Dhabi Fund? Or, if you wish – some more recent case, about how we financed the construction of the highway.

I don’t think that is a coincidence, just like the apparent lack of support (apart from rhetorical) for the judiciary is no coincidence, because it would be naive to kid ourselves that the parties that inherited the worst practices of the DPS are comfortable with strong State Prosecutor’s Office and judiciary. Quite the contrary, that is also visible at every step.

MONITOR: Months-long investigation into the assets and income of the retired NSA and Police Directorate officer, Duško Golubović, conducted by MANS, showed that his family spent over one million euros for the purchase of several properties and luxury vehicles over a period of ten years. The institutions have not reacted to this.

​MANS has already submitted the complete documentation obtained by investigating the property of the Golubović family to the Special State Prosecutor’s Office for further processing. When it comes to the Ministry of the Interior and the Police Directorate, they had and missed the opportunity to do something, at least until the mid-last year when Golubović officially retired. We suspect that the property we managed to prove is only the tip of the iceberg, and Golubović himself is just one of many from the state apparatus who can hardly justify significant property with their official income. From that example alone, we can see how effective the Internal Control of the Police Directorate was in the previous period, together with the so-called Anti-Corruption Department, which actually never functioned properly.

In this sense, it is difficult not to put this case in the context of the fact that three years after the replacing the DPS government, we do not have an institution that is ready to deal with the unexplained property of those who should be the first line of defence against corruption, instead, it must be done by a non-governmental organization.

Finally, it remains to be seen whether the example of Golubović will be enough to break a stalemate in the MoI and the Police Directorate, and whether there would be enough awareness that the checking of police officers and their integrity must start with their assets.

MONITOR: Do you expect the new government to do more when it comes to illegally acquired property?

First announcements we heard from the Minister of Justice, Andrej Milović, that the government will try to adjust the legal framework according to the so-called “Italian model”, are encouraging, but it remains to be seen whether such solution will have a majority, first in the Government, and then in the Parliament.

What should happen immediately without delay is the criminalization of illicit enrichment through changes to the Criminal Code and the introducing of a new criminal offense. Although these amendments cannot be applied retroactively, it would be an excellent opportunity to do what the administrations of Zdravko Krivokapić and Dritan Abazović failed to do – to show on their own example that they are ready to be a generation of politicians who will send a message that illicit enrichment will not be tolerated.



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