Milivoje Katnic said on Friday that he suspected three tonnes of cocaine were successfully smuggled into the country through Bar in the last six months – saying security lapses were partly to blame.

Special State Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic at the press conference in Podgorica. Photo: PR Centar

Special State Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic said on Friday there were suspicions that three tonnes of cocaine had been successfully smuggled into the port of Bar in the last six months.

Katnic said a prosecution investigation showed that cocaine was smuggled into the country in banana shipments on June 2, August 2 and October 14, 2021.

“Our investigation showed that in the port of Bar members of a criminal group managed to bring in 2.5 tonnes of cocaine on one occasion and 500 kilograms on other two occasions. Custom officers noticed a certain amount of goods was missing, and this quantity was determined on the basis of the missing goods,” Katnic told a press conference.

“Nobody informed police and prosecutors about it, so hundreds of million euros worth of cocaine have passed through the port. This is a serious omission by the Montenegrin security system, so we couldn’t act on time,” he added.

On January 12, police seized 500 kilograms of cocaine in the capital, Podgorica, after workers in the Voli retailer company’s warehouse found the packages hidden in a banana shipment.

Katnic said after the cocaine was found in Bar, police and custom let it go, focused on finding the end purchaser. He said Voli’s management called the police after workers in their warehouse found the suspicious packages hidden in the banana shipment.

“During 2021, a criminal organisation created in Slovenia, Montenegro and the territory of Ecuador, committed a number of criminal acts of unauthorized production, possession and sale of drugs. So far, Dj.D. from Montenegro was arrested and detained,” said Katnic.

This was the country’s third seizure of cocaine hidden in banana shipments in eight years. On August 27, 2021, police seized 1,400 kilograms of cocaine in the village of Mojanovici in the Zeta district, near Podgorica, where drugs were found, again in a banana shipment. Police arrested Budimir Krstovic and his daughter, Marina, owners of the company that imported the bananas.

In June 2014, customs officers seized 250 kilograms of cocaine smuggled inside another shipment of bananas, in what was described then as the biggest drugs haul ever in the country.

Authorities claimed the cocaine was worth about 12.5 million euros. It was also seized in Bar, a well-known transit point for South American drugs heading to Europe. The ship was carrying bananas from Ecuador to Montenegro’s neighbor, Albania. Montenegro is part of a well-trodden route for drug smugglers trying to reach lucrative markets in Western Europe.

Samir Kajosevic

balkaninsight.com

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