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A notorious example of “independent“ Montenegrin judiciary: How Prva Bank snatched €12.5 million from Knezevic via Azerbaijani minister

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Despite the lack of clear evidence that Caspia delivered the services for which Atlas Bank was expected to pay €12.5 million, the Montenegrin courts ruled in favour of Kaspia, a company linked to the family of powerful Azerbaijani minister Khamaladin Heydarov. President Djukanovic met Heydarov several times whereas Heydarov's company name pops us in the context of the case of murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

 

Montenegro’s strongman Milo Djukanovic met Kamaladdin Heydarov, powerful Azerbaijan’s emergency affairs minister in Oct 2105. The contents of the meeting remain veiled. Prime Minister Djukanovic was accompanied by then minister of economy Vladimir Kavaric, then minister of sustainable development and tourism Branimir Gvozdenovic, Djukanovic’s chief political advisor Milan Rocen and Djukanovic’s advisor for energy and industrial development Ranko Milovic.

The information service of Azerbaijan’s government reported that Heydarov and then Prime Minister Djukanovic talked about their experience in managing emergency situations. On the other hand Djukanovic’s press service reported that he had met the Gilan company representatives there to discuss cooperation related to winter tourism and food production, Heydarov also being present.

Gilan Holdings is one of the most successful Azerbaijani companies. Gilan was founded by Heydarov in the 80s and later he handed it over to his sons when he joined the government.

However, it was recently reported, as a part of the Daphne Project, that daughters of President Ilham Aliyev have a share in the company too, whereas Heydarov is often used as a shell for the property of Aliyev who ranks the wealthiest in the country.

According to the US diplomatic documents leaked in 2010, Heydarov made his “enormous wealth“ while he was heading the State Customs Committee “which was notoriously corrupt even by Azerbaijani standards“.

Heydarov is also known as “the minister of all important things“.

Although Montenegro’s economy did not benefit from the visit, that which followed brought emergency situation to some in Montenegro.

Caspia Property Holdings of the sons of minister Heydarov, Tale and Nijat, sued Atlas Bank of Dusko Knezevic claiming that Knezevic owed the company €12.5 million.

Caspia was arguing before the Commercial Court of Montenegro that the disputed amount was based on the alleged bank guarantee. On the other hand, Knezevic has argued that the guarantee was never issued but only a draft thereof so to launch talks about possible bussines. Furthermore, Knezevic claims that the lawsuit was a scheme to enrich those who had orchestrated the whole thing.

In his recent interview with A1 TV Knezevic said that “the money was transferred to Prva Bank of the Djukanovic brothers in the joint operation via the president of Commercial Court Blazo Jovanic“. They were Knezevic’s longtime friends with whom he was doing business adhering to the rules of the Montenegrin Octopus set up by Djukanovic. However, he parted ways with them recently.

Caspia Property Holdings is mentioned in the context of investigation of the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Karuana Galizia. Before she was murdered she was investigating the businesses of the ruling Azerbaijani families and their accounts in Malta’s Pilatus Bank. She was killed by car bomb in Oct 2017.

The Daphne Project is carried out by many investigative reporters who are keen to continue Daphe’s investigations. They found out that the children of the two most powerful officials in Azerbaijan– President Aliyev and his minister Heydarov, used dozens of offshore companies as covers for investments in luxury real estates, companies and top hotels across Europe and the Middle East. Montenegro is one of those places.

According to the Montenegrin Central Register of Business Entities (CRPS), a couple of months after Djukanovic’s visit to Azerbaijan and his meeting with Mr Heydarov, in Jan 2016, a company was founded in Budva. It was registered as hotel business-Caspia Tourism. Behind it stood a chain of offshore companies which are related to the Heydarov family. The executive of the Budva-based company is certain Esad Puskar, a US citizen.

The reporters who are a part of the Daphne Project wrote that “their secrets were hidden in the files of Pilatus Bank in Malta, which is now under investigation for money laundering“. The foreign media reported that Pilatus Bank’s murky businesses in Malta were first revealed by the bank’s former employee Maria Efimova  who met Daphne Galizia in early 2017.

Daphne soon published that Aliyev’s eldest daughter Leyla transferred a million euros from the account in Pilatus Bank via her offshore companies to the offshore company owned by the wife of Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta. She also reported that the main bank’s client was Khamaladin Heydarov and that he had several accounts in the bank which are registered in various companies which are remotely owned by Heydarov himself. The journalist was killed six months later. The investigators haven’t solved the case. The motives and masterminds of the crime remain unknown.

However, speaking of the local turf, the documents show that Knezevic did talk with Azerbaijanis about possible business projects in 2014 after Montenegro’s Djukanovic led authorities established business relations with Azerbaijani companies which embarked on big projects on the seacoast.

Nevertheless, many things have remained unclear and unveiled after controversial two year long battle in court launched by the Azerbaijanis. Thus it’s still unresolved whether the project of Caspia and Atlas Bank has even been carried out. Had it been completed on the part of the Azerbaijanies it would have justified the court’s ruling in their favour thus calling upon the guarantee issued by the bank. However, Knezevic claims that the business with the Azerbaijanis didn’t happen at all.

The Montenegrin courts reached entirely different verdicts based on the very same evidence. Thus Zoran Asanin, a judge of the Commercial Court was certain, based on his first verdict,  that the bank guarantee was problematic and not to be called upon.

“The court has concluded that the said bank guarantee does not contain all the key elements pursuant to the International Chamber of Commerce Uniform Rules, therefore the said guarantee cannot constitute a valid bank guarantee“ said the court in Nov 2016 in its ruling which favoured Atlas Bank.

Judge Asanin stated in the same verdict that the plaintiff, Caspia Property Holdings, did not prove that it had carried out the work on account of which the guarantee could be called upon.

The Appellate Court chamber headed by judge Marija Marinkovic reversed the verdict and ordered retrial. After that, judge Asanin completely changed his mind.

Besides other things, the Appellate Court criticised Asanin for not having heard Dusko Knezevic about the alleged business deal which was the cause of the guarantee. Asanin was also criticised for examining  the bank guarantee’s validity from the standpoint of international rules.

So, Asanin next time ruled in favour of Caspia and his verdict was readily upheld by the Appellate Court and its judge Ramo Strikovic. Judge Strikovic also rejected the motion of Knezevic to take part in the hearing as one of the parties in the lawsuit.

In the retrial, when judge Asanin changed his mood, it was stated that a part of the money was paid in cash to Knezevic for his share in Princess Hotel in Bar. However there is no clear evidence that the transaction ever happened while the business registry of the Commercial Court  doesn’t show Caspia as the hotel’s co-owner. Furthermore, the Caspia owners were not heard in the court.

The Appellate Court’s judge Strikovic upheld the new verdict of the Commercial Court stating that it didn’t matter whether the business deal had been carried out or not. “Whether the parties adhered to the contract and to what extent is of no significance to resolve the lawsuit. This same applies to the defendant’s allegations that payments of €8… and €4… were made not by the plaintiff but by third parties and that those (payments) were not related to the (contested) Contract“ – so it is stated in the ruling of June 2018.

“The Appellate Court adhered to the reasoning of the Commercial Court and failed to heed the civil procedure violations and to review all the matters of relevance. Motions for new evidence were suppressed, including the motion to hear the real owners of Caspia Property Holdings- Tale and Nijat Heydarov, and their father- minister of emergency affairs in the government of Azerbaijan and owner of Azerbaijan’s Gilan Holdings. He visited Montenegro and talked about potential investments in the projects of Atlas Group. Later, he unilaterally pulled out. The Appellate Court and the Commercial Court rejected the motion to hear Knezevic and to order financial audit“ said Igor Martinovic, a lawyer of Atlas Group. He announced that he would address the Supreme Court over the matter.

The money was expressly transferred to Caspia’a account with Prva Bank of the Djukanovic brothers even before all legal remedies were exhausted.

“We submitted complaint to the Commercial Court on 16 July and asked to postpone the enforcement of ruling. The Commercial Court did accept our request to abort the enforcement“ explains Martinovic. However, the money was transferred to Prva Bank despite everything. “We were expecting that the judicial officer would return the money back to Atlas Bank. That didn’t happen“ ended Martinovic.

Maybe we’ll find out one day if those €12.5 million helped the Djukanovic brothers to improve their solvency if we ever get the national authorities which will rather pay heed to the law than bend the knee before their autocratic boss.

 

Milena PEROVIĆ-KORAĆ

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IN ENGLISH

SILENT KILLER: DRUG ADDICTION AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE IN MONTENEGRO: Growing Hopelessness

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Young people in Montenegro can reach dugs within half an hour. They often consume it in school backyards, most commonly marijuana, and the use of heavy psychoactive substances is increasing. Many of them suffer from psychological disorders. Monitor's interviewees agree that we don’t talk about this enough, and that we lack support of the society as a whole.

 

“They use drugs wherever they can, mostly in the schoolyard. They choose places where cameras can't capture them, and those who want to get “stuff” turn to them. In most cases, it is marijuana”, said student A.S. from Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic in Podgorica.

Last year's research of the Ombudsman Children and Addiction Diseases in Montenegro showed as well that drug addiction is one of the burning problems of young people in Montenegro. According to the research, which included 37 elementary and 25 high schools, marijuana was used by more than 11 percent of students, while on average, more than eight students consumed heavy drugs. “Half of drug addicts use one substance and the other half use two or more substances. Students in Montenegro use significantly more illegal (heavy) drugs than the EU average”, the study said. As many as 16 percent of students said that illicit substances were often consumed at school, and besides, there was an increase in the use of synthetic drugs, which are cheap and easily available.

“Those for whom I know that use marijuana do it behind the school. They did it before on the fire stairs. The most problematic is easy availability of drugs”, said student Z.K. from Economics High School Mirko Vesovic in Podgorica. More than 25 percent of the students that participated in the Ombudsman's research reported a similar view. If one wants drugs, it will take him half to several hours to get it, which is disturbing.

Dijana Milosevic, from Public Institution Kakaricka Gora, an institution for accommodation, rehabilitation and re-socialization of users of psychoactive substances in Podgorica said for Monitor that it generally began with marijuana “The adolescence itself, is the greatest crisis period of each individual, when identity problems naturally appear, difficulties in accepting authority, as well as a tendency to experiment with “forbidden things.” All these are favorable conditions for an adolescent to come into contact with psychoactive substances. There is a persistent misconception among young people that marijuana is not a drug or that it is an “easy drug” which facilitates entering into problem. Most often marijuana is the first substance that addicts consume. Besides consequences which it leaves on the psyche of the consumer, this is a misconception that can cost them their lives”.

According to her, the reasons why young people use drugs are mainly dissatisfaction, concern or rebellion against authority, boredom, family problems, peer violence as well as opinion that cigarettes, alcohol or drugs are some kind of “gateway” to a certain group of peers.

“Behind our school sports hall, you can often see older guys who give marijuana to children. It happens almost every day and its favorite gathering place”, told us  another student of Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic.

Monitor addressed this issue to most of the high schools in Podgorica. The question what they did to restrain this problem, even after weeks of waiting, has not been answered.

“We do not work enough in schools with adolescents, when it comes to drug addiction. However, the reason for that is not in schools, but rather in insufficient involvement of institutions, which should tackle more with this problem. We cannot expect from schools to deal with the education of children and to be a police officer and someone who, among other responsibilities, will work with children on restraining this phenomenon. That is why they need help from both the institutions and the civil sector. Everybody has to deal with this phenomenon. Every year its presence in educational institutions is increasing”, said to Monitor NGO Euromost, whose main goal is to support fight against drugs abuse and all forms of addiction.

Drug abuse increased everywhere in the world, and the same happened in our country, regardless of the actions taken through health, educational, legal system, noted psychologist Natasa Vukovic, who works with peer educators as a part of NGO Euromost actions. “The number of drug users is becoming more noticeable among young people, among high school students and even elderly elementary school students. There are no harmless drugs. The continuous, systemic and systematic action of the whole society is necessary. The aim above all must be that children and young people never turn to drugs”.

According to her, inadequate assistance and lack of support from the family, primarily parents, who have failed to maintain a relationship of trust with their children, and who have failed to “impose” desirable role models, make young people an “easy target”.

“Eighteenth birthday celebrations are particularly problematic. Sometimes flats, where they mix two or three types of drugs and large amounts of alcohol, are being rented. Mostly, this refers to grammar school graduates. My daughter went to one such birthday celebration and she called me to pick her up, shocked and dreadful. She didn't know what was going on there. And parents have no idea”, said for Monitor Patricija Pobric, Director of NGO Our Action.

She claims that a deeper involvement in drug addiction is often preceded by some criminal acts: “Usually, as of the third grade of high school, young people are recruited to buy ID cards by older students. These kids turn to drugs afterwards. They are “carriers” and it’s easy to involve them in petty crimes. They later buy motorcycles and cars from that money “.

Many start using drugs because they expect that it will help them deal with problems on a daily basis. Many start out of curiosity, with the well-known – ‘I will just try it’. Asked why someone became an addict and someone did not, especially if persons grew up in similar circumstances or even in the same family, Natasa Vukovic said that there was no clear and definite answer: “The only certain conclusion is that you should clearly advise everyone not to try psychoactive substance because one does not know in advance whether he/she is sensitive to it, which would mean that even a single intake already creates a psychic need for re-taking it. Such patients exist in practice, and they have a common characteristic that they “immediately liked the drug”.

Euromost noted that in addition to combating drug trafficking, we should work also on improving prevention of drug addiction among youth: “Upon completing the training of the first peer educators, Euromost, besides Bijelo Polje, has expanded its workshops to other northern municipalities, such as Plav, Gusinje and Rozaje. The number of participants is the best indicator of youth interest. However, in order for this to be successful, it is necessary to constantly communicate with young people and listen to what they have to say. It is not really useful just to find an expert who will explain them what the drug is and how it looks like”.

Natasa Vukovic, pointed out for Monitor, that addiction can be closely related to young people’s mental problems. Mind and mental healthcare is still a taboo topic in Montenegro. “It is true that in recent years more and more young people have sought help and advice of psychologists, but still shyly, almost always asking for visits not to be evidenced, and that parents do not find out about it, because it is often very difficult for them to accept the fact that their child goes to a psychologist or psychiatrist”, she said.

The state has similar approach. “There is no institution in our country where young people with a mental illness can be treated”, warned Vukovic.

In Montenegro, National Register on Drug Addiction has been maintained since 2013 by the Institute for Public Health, but it functions only on the basis of data collected from health institutions. There is no information about those who are not reported. According to recent estimates, there are more than 15,000 drug addicts in Montenegro.

How many of them are young people and children is not precisely known. The results of the research are discouraging. Monitor's interviewees agree – there is a lack of communication and cooperation between institutions, schools, parents and young people. And the problem of addiction is not the problem of the individual, but of the whole society.

Milo Popovic and Andrea Jelic

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IN ENGLISH

HOW HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ACCEPTED STAY-AT-HOME AND SOCIAL DISTANCING ORDERS: Time of Worrying and Learning

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It has been shown that keeping prescribed distance without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging … is one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. According to received answers, the only recommendation that was less respected was the one concerning wearing of protective equipment

 

Do high school students in Podgorica and to what extent respect the measures taken to prevent coronavirus spread? Through social networks, we surveyed about 200 students, from all high schools in Podgorica, to find out first-hand, how they cope with recommendations and measures that, among other things, limit movement and outdoor activities.

“Ever since the coronavirus appeared in Montenegro and since the Government announced the protective measures, I fully comply with them,” Elena Dabetic told us. “I haven't been out of the house since March, even when I have to go to the store, I go with full equipment: masks, gloves, and I keep distance from other people. Quarantine was not difficult for me since I’ve focused on some other activities, for which I did not have time, such as drawing. I kill boredom by playing online video games with my friends, watching movies, reading books, etc. I believe that people just need to think positively and use this time to work on themselves; well, we have a lot of time and we will learn more to appreciate going out after all this.”

Others, again, relativized the danger and explained why they did not exactly adhere to the imposed measures of social distancing. In fact, it was shown that keeping a prescribed distance of 1-2 meters without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging…was one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. Only every tenth respondent respected this experts’ recommendation. Even less number of respondents, according to received answers, respected recommendation concerning wearing of protective equipment. It was respected by every fifth research participant.

“When it comes to quarantine, I was relaxed at first, but when the situation intensified, I took it more seriously,” said Isidora Milatovic. “It is difficult for me to get used to it. This is the first time I am faced with situation like this. I spend my time learning, so I don't really do any other activities. I sincerely hope that the situation will stabilize and that we will soon return to a normal life. ”

Her peer Danilo Kujacic explained: “I accept quarantine well, since my usual lifestyle is not much different. I spend most of my day at the computer. I go out with friends in the evening or occasionally, go out for training. I think the current situation is exaggerated and not half as significant as the media present it.”

A significant number of young people, according to their own testimonies, comply with the recommendations and stay at home. Survey has found that watching series and movies, playing games on a phone/computer and using social networks are three of the most common activities young people currently do. According to collected data, every tenth respondent takes an online course, learns a foreign language and (or) reads extracurricular literature.

Milica Radulovic stated that the current situation disturbed everyone's usual activities, but, as she said, we must accept this way of life. “We all eagerly wait for measures to ease, but until that happens, we must use this time as good as possible. I suggest that we all devote this time to ourselves: by doing home-based training, reading a book, studying, but also communicating with friends through social networks. If after doing all of these you still have spare time, you can always watch a series or a movie…”, said our interviewee. And she concluded: “I really miss gatherings in the neighbourhood, but these measures must be respected if we want to get back to our old habits as soon as possible.”

In our survey, high school students cited several common reasons why they went out: a third of surveyed participants went out to shop at stores and pharmacies; a quarter for a walk or training in nature; every fifth for meeting and hanging out with friends… Boris Janjusevic said: “It was strange at first, but over time I got used to it. I spend my time doing homework, but of course I play games more than usual. As usual I spare an hour, an hour and a half of time for training.”

Given the new circumstances, interaction between students and professors in the school classroom has been replaced by online teaching, a platform and a website. Survey showed that most students did assignments, presentations, essays which professors gave, as well as that they studied provided resources. However, based on the results, two-thirds of high school students were not satisfied with online teaching, since, as they said, new way of work, to which they were not used to, required more work, effort and time than “traditional” class attendance.

Almost everyone missed social life, going out and socializing (without set limits). “I am very bored in quarantine and it has been difficult for me to find anything interesting to do”, notes S.P. who wanted to remain anonymous. “I usually play games, write songs, listen to music or do my homework. The current situation has great impact on us and our psyche. When all this is over, the consequences will be visible in our country, as well as in the whole world”, he said.

On the other hand, a smaller number of respondents said that they did not have any difficulties during quarantine. They believe that there has not been any other situation in which they would have so much time to devote to themselves and to improve their skills and potentials. Thus, M.P. explained: “I learn languages ​​during quarantine. I try to organize myself well, especially because of my school obligations. Of course, this is not always possible, but I manage. I also watch movies, communicate with friends, and read books. This is a chance to correct most of the mistakes, because time, despite the space barrier, works in our favour. ”

We spoke with Patricia Pobric, a civic activist and Executive Director of the NGO Our Action, about the behaviour of young people in this new situation caused by coronavirus pandemic and in what way they can make useful contribution.

“One who understands young people understands that current situation is most difficult to them. It's still easy for kids to have fun at home with toys and other activities, but young people are, by their nature, very social beings. They like to move, to socialize, go out…Although we consider that they are too much attached to their phones, physical socializing means a lot to them. In general, I think most young people understood the significance of the situation, and that it was accepted with understanding but not with fear. Only young people to whom parents, relatives, and media transferred fear, showed it.”

Pobric however, pointed out that there were also undesirable examples. “It happens that a small number of young men drives their vehicles after curfew, or organize trips and barbecues and do not respect social distancing. My advice to young members of NGO Our Action, from the beginning of quarantine, was to spend time after online school activities not only on games and internet, but also on planting, working on farms, gardens, learning new skills at home and in nature.” Photos prove that some have accepted the advice.

Zana KNEZEVIC

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IN ENGLISH

PUBLIC CALL CIN-CG: EMPOWERING RE POPULATION TO ACESS THE LABOR MARKET

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Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN-CG), in the framework of the project:

“Empowering RE population to access the labor market”

(project provided with the financial support of the European Union and the Government of Montenegro)

is publishing:

A PUBLIC CALL

For training in the media industry – 25 interns from RE population

(Training for journalists, cameramen, graphic designers, workers in printing plant and other jobs in electronic, print and online media)

The training will consist of two stages. The first stage includes two-month training for 25 participants, for which fee will be provided. Following the first stage training, the Commission will select five trainees who show the best tendencies for work in the media. A five-month employment contract will be signed with them. The participants will be trained in media work and they will be involved in media production, for which they will receive regular monthly salary.

The Call is open for unemployed members of RE population residing in the territory of Montenegro who completed at least a primary school and are registered with the Employment Agency of Montenegro. Priority will be given to candidates with high school and college degrees.

Interested candidates should send their applications with a CV, confirmation from the records of the Employment Agency of Montenegro and motivational letter by 15/02/2020 at the latest, by e-mail to: konkurscincg@gmail.com, or to the address: CIN-CG, Trg nezavisnosti bb, 81000 Podgorica.

 

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