Monitor Weekly, 18 January 2013
CIA, Djukanovic & Arafat's Murder Suspect
Mohammad Dahlan, a former Palestinian Security Minister, whom his country's authorities suspect of embezzling hundreds of millions of state funds, has business deals in Montenegro. He could be one of the important links between Milo Djukanovic1 and the Al Nahyan royal family of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which the Montenegrin Prime Minister has just visited. In Abu Dhabi, Djukanovic sought salvation for Montenegro's bankrupt economy.
This was not the Montenegrin leader's first visit to the rich Arab kingdom. He also travelled to Abu Dhabi in 2008. On that occasion, he also had meetings with the royal family, after which big projects were announced.
According to the Palestinian media of the time, the man who connected Djukanovic with the Emirati royal family is this same Dahlan, a former close associate of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. During Fatah's rule, Dahlan was one of the most powerful persons in Gaza. But after Hamas took power there in 2007, Dahlan had to leave the territory. He was then accused of attempting a coup. Some of his men were arrested and, according to the media, one of them was the first ambassador of Palestine in Montenegro, Adham Abo Madalala.
Later on, Dahlan entered into a conflict with his longtime political ally from Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of the Palestinian state. In 2011, Abbas expelled Dahlan from Fatah.
Today, the opposing Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah – have something in common. Both accuse Dahlan for embezzling state funds and endemic corruption, and for immensely enriching himself. Even in the nineties, Dahlan was a regular target of public criticism. A research paper from 1997 on Dahlan – A man who swallowed Gaza – claimed that he earned his initial capital through a monopoly on the import of gasoline, which was sold at enormous prices to the impoverished population under siege.
Later on, Dahlan was accused of betraying Palestinian interests – of having close ties to the US intelligence circles and Israel's Mossad. His opponents claim that he is a confidant of the CIA. He has also lately been mentioned in connection with the death of the PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Allegedly, Dahlan sent poison packaged as medicine to Arafat in his Paris hospital. Arafat's body was recently exhumed amid suspicions that he was poisoned with polonium. Some traces were found on the clothes, but experts have not yet confirmed that this is the actual cause of death. Dahlan has denied all these allegations.
It is known that Arafat was in conflict with Dahlan in the last years of his life. Arafat wanted to remove him from the top positions, but Dahlan then obtained political support from Abbas, who later appointed him as minister of security. It is believed that Americans helped bring this about.
In some documents compiled by Monitor, but also in the Middle East and Western media, one can read that Dahlan intends to invest his money in Montenegro, in real estate deals.
Dahlan and Yasser Mahmoud Abbas, one of the sons of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, entered Montenegro almost simultaneously, at a time when the two Palestinian politicians were still closely cooperating. Two years after Montenegrin independence, in April 2008, Dahlan registered in Podgorica the Levant International Incorporation. It is interesting that the representative of this company is Diana Buttu, the well known former PLO spokeswoman, whom the US President George W. Bush praised “because of her tendency for compromise.” Buttu is, otherwise, a long-time lawyer of Dahlan's.
A few months later, in August 2008, Dahlan registered another company – Manarah Holding Montenegro. While Levant was registered for consulting and management, Manarah was established for developing real estate projects. Both companies are on the same Podgorica address at the George Washington Street. The apartment of approximately 80 square meters is owned by Levant, according to the Real Estate Directorate . The Executive Director of Manarah is Bassil Jabir, who also heads companies with the same name on multiple other addresses: Virgin Islands, Abou Dhabi, Cairo and Panama (more details in Box 1 below).
Yasser Mahmoud Abbass, in turn, started operating in Montenegro in February 2008. The younger Abbas registered two companies in Podgorica – Falcon General Investments Company and First Option Conctruction Project Management co. Both firms are registered at the same address, as the firms of Dahlan's noted above.
The son of Mahmoud Abbas is mentioned in several documents as a controversial businessman linked to corruption and to persons on the Interpol arrest warrants. Dahlan, himself, accuses Abbas's sons of profiteering through exploitation of their father's authority and relationships.
A document from July 2012, ‘Chronicle of Cleptocracy (corruption within the Palestinian political establishment)’- presented in a recent testimony before the US Congress, points at several politicians who have embezzled huge Palestinian funds, including Abbas senior, his sons and Dahlan. It describes the conflict that broke out between Abbas and Dahlan, and states that Dahlan has ties with Montenegro and several other countries, including Egypt and the Emirates.
According to several sources, since 2008, when his star began to pale in Palestine and Gaza, Dahlan spends most of his time in Cairo. He is thought to be associated in multiple ways with the Saviris clan developing, among others, a project of more than a billion euros on the Montenegrin Lustica peninsula in the Kotor Bay. Saviris and Dahlan's associate Mohammed Rashid are together in the firm Monte Mena, registered in Panama (see Box 2 below).
According to several reports, Dahlan's return to power is desired by certain circles in the US. The reports also state that Dahlan enjoys political backing from the United Arab Emirates. Presumably, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is seriously concerned that this support may affect the financial aid that Palestine is receiving from the Arab brethren, and that a reduction of such aid could strengthen Dahlan in Palestine. These reports and a number of our sources claim that such scenario would be welcomed by the CIA leadership.
Do these same circles look favorably at the links between Dahlan and Djukanovic? It's hard to get an answer, but the fact is that, when it comes to Palestine, Montenegro is moving away from the European strategy. Recently, Montenegro abstained from the vote on Palestine in the United Nations, thus pandering to Washington but repudiating our European partners.
In any case – money from the Emirates would come handily to Djukanovic, who did not arrive by chance to the royal palace in Abu Dhabi one December night. In late 2008, Palestinian media disclosed the news: “Dahlan is in Abu Dhabi with the Prime Minister of Montenegro. He was seen in the lobby of the Emirates’ royal palace two nights ago with the dodgiest characters one can imagine. The story is this: He is there to arrange real estate deals for the Abu Dhabi royal family in Montenegro and receive a fat fee as the middleman.”
Following the visit, Montenegrin media wrote that the royal family has expressed interest in a number of projects, including the Long Beach in Ulcinj, Shipyard Bijela, First Bank2 … Afterwards, nothing happened at all. A company from Emirates, presumably backed by the royal family, submitted a bid at the tender for the sale of the Shipyard, but the deal was not concluded because of an alleged failure to comply with the tender conditions. Was that really the reason or was the problem the fat fee? According to one version, the entry of Emirate companies in Montenegro was conditioned by the bailing out of the First Bank in which the Arabs did not want to engage because of the bank's huge financial liabilities and problematic loans.
What will happen now – in the midst of this great crisis? Could Djukanovic be preparing to lower the price for whatever still remains for sale – the Long Beach, Ada Bojana, Valdanos3 …?
Let us be clear – serious investors from the Emirates could indeed contribute to the recovery of the Montenegrin economy. It is not a secret that their free and safe capital is seeking new opportunities and investment destinations. But, will the recent Chief's travel and direct negotiations with the Al Nahyan family benefit Montenegro? It depends on whether Djukanovic and various middlemen, such as Dahlan, are ready to give up private benefits for the sake of public interest. That would be a miracle.
The Arabs are coming
Besides Mohammed Dahlan, more people with the same surname can be found in the Montenegrin commercial registry. These are Abdrabu Jussef Dahlan Shaker and Ahmed Abdrabu Dahlan Jussef. They are in the companies – Middle East Real Estate DOO Podgorica and Queens Beach Development Company. Both companies are registered for real estate business. The seat of the first is in the heart of Podgorica, in the Karadjordjeva Street, while Queens is in the Malo Brdo suburb. These two Dahlans are also active in the region. They are in Alfursan, a company established in Belgrade.
The authorized representative of the Middle East Real Estate is Janko Skuletic, who is also director of the Queens Beach. That these firms are associated with Mohammed Dahlan can be deduced from the fact that Janko Skuletic also represented Manarah Holding in some circumstances in Montenegro, as for example at the Real Estate Fair in Becici.
Janko Skuletic also represented the well known firm Solidere from the Emirates, which made an offer in late 2008 for a parcel of land in Podgorica owned by the Radoje Dakic Company, but later withdrew from the deal. “Solidere operates according to the principles of energy efficiency and sustainable development, using the latest technology”, Skuletic said at the time. Montenegrin media reported recently that the Emirates, among others, will invest in energy efficiency projects.
Recently, the Queens Beach Development Company purchased tender documents for the hinterland of the Queen's beach in the municipality of Bar, which was confirmed by Dragan Simovic, the municipality's vice president.
The founder of the Queens Beach company, according to the Registry of the Commercial Court, is the UAE based Hydra Commercial Investments. Based on our investigations, in 2008, this company and the Saviris'es Orascom jointly established in Abu Dhabi the construction consortium Emirates Foundation. Besides Orascom, members of the consortium are the companies Sorouh and Capital Investment. Some companies in the chain have been involved in large projects and seem to be serious investors.
Relationships with the Family
Mohammad Dahlan has also been criticized for his relations with Mohammad Rashid, who was recently condemned ‘in absentia’ by the Palestinian Authority to 15 years in prison for financial fraud. After the Arab Spring, Dahlan and Rashid have been accused for delivering weapons from Israel to the Libyan leader Gaddafi in return for huge sums of money.
Many available sources point out that Rashid is actually the Dahlan's man of trust, through whom he performs various transactions. As Monitor recently wrote, Rashid, a former economic adviser to Yasser Arafat, is in the Montenegrin registry in four companies: Monte Mena Investments, Trust Holding, Prima Invest (which is now deleted from the registry) and Montenegro company for Real Estates, Investments and Development.
Rashid is associated with the Montenegrin Prime Minister. Dragica Mrvaljevic, director of Djukanovic's company Primary Invest, was at the same time director of Rashid's Monte Mena Investment. And according to the Audit Report on the First Bank for 2007, Rashid's companies have received two loans from the brothers Djukanovic, amounting to almost 13 million euros.
As noted already, Monte Mena company is also registered in Panama. Rashid's partner there is the Egyptian billionaire Samih Saviris, who is planning to build a complex worth more than a billion euros on the Kotor Bay's Lustica peninsula. In the Panamian Monte Mena, one also finds close colleagues of Djukanovic's – the ambassador Vojin Vlahovic, former longtime adviser to the current Prime Minister, and Veselin Vukotic, Djukanovic's teacher and partner in the university business4.
Monte Mena continues to advertise through its web site a megaproject at Skočiđevojka, near Petrovac, and another one at Podkošljun, near Budva. Djukanovic's company Global Montenegro owns 20,229 square meters of land at Podkošljun. A coincidence? It is as coincidental as the fact that Rashid's Monte Mena in Podgorica is based in premises owned by the Prime Minister's brother Aco Djukanovic.
1 Montenegrin Prime Minister or President since 1991 and Chairman of the ruling DPS party, successor to the former League of Communists. Mr Djukanovic has recently been re-elected for a new 4 year term as Prime Minister
2 First Bank of Montenegro, former small municipal bank privatised in 2006 and turned within a year into the country's second largest bank by the Djukanovic family (PM, his brother Aco Djukanovic and their sister Ana Kolarevic), now under -going severe difficulties due to alleged gross mis-management and obscure dealings
3 Large and very attractive real estate development sites on the Montenegrin Coast near the border with Albania
WHY MINISTRY OF EDUCACTION PROTECTS DIRECTOR OF ELECTRO-TECHNICAL SCHOOL IN PODGORICA: Reward for violence
Video that has recently appeared on social networks shows professor of the Electro-technical High School in Podgorica Veselin Picuric as he stands in front of the school blackboard and emblem of Montenegro finger flicking on students foreheads. Students pass by him quietly, tolerating his actions which leads to a conclusion that it is usual educational-correctional measure.
The video was made ten years ago, and in the meantime Picuric was promoted to a director of this school. His third mandate was signed by Minister Damir Sehovic on February 7, this year.
Students were not the only ones who made video records of professors in Electro-technical High School “Vaso Aligrudic”. When Picuric became director in 2009, he installed video surveillance in classrooms, computer halls and laboratories. In 2011 he went step further and placed cameras in practical classes’ premises, and even in school's toilets. This was done unlawfully, according to the opinion of Basic Court in Podgorica which was brought in January 2019, just before Picuric’s re-election. Judge of Podgorica's Basic Court Katarina Jankovic, acting upon charges of eleven former and current professors of that school, ordered the school to pay each of them a thousand euros, as a compensation for non-pecuniary damage for violation of person’s rights – the right to privacy and the right to mental integrity.
Picuric said that the court ruling was not the final and that he would appeal. He also said that video surveillance was set up with the approval of the Teachers’ Council. On the other hand the opinion of the court considered the installation of video surveillance in the toilets as an interference with the right to privacy. Previously, the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data requested removal of cameras from school toilets, and then from all 16 rooms where the teaching process takes place, because they were set up without a valid legal basis.
The Court also established a very creative misuse of recordings – on one occasion during a session of the Teachers’ Council, at which more than 100 employees were present, a class of one of the professors was shown on a TV screen. The director used the part of the session to comment on professor’s work in front of his colleagues. The purpose of that video screening was to show to everyone that they were under surveillance and that their work can be also commented. The ruling states that they received warnings even from the cleaning staff.
Before the trial, Picuric was also in focus of educational authorities. Namely, the main education inspector Lucija Adzic recommended in 2013, Picuric’s dismissal from the position of school director. In November 2017, the Educational Inspectorate reiterated that Picuric should be dismissed. He unlawfully dismissed three professors of practical classes Ranko Ljumovic, Dragan Sandic and Branislav Ivanstanin. At the same time, he hired seven new professors, among who only one had professional certification. According to the assessment of the education inspector Radan Nikolic, in the period from 2009 to 2014, Picuric damaged the school and the state for 136.000,00 euros!
Despite those warnings and confirmed damage, Picuric continued to work on his own. Education inspector Vesko Joksimovic found out in December 2018, that Picuric, again unlawfully reduced teaching hours to professors of practical classes, and that he hired six teachers who did not have professional certification and license to work in educational institutions.
The Ministry of Education was well informed about the situation. However this did not prevent Minister Sehovic in February this year, to sign for Picuric’s mandate one more time. Center for Civic Education considers that reelection of Picuric gives a perception that Ministry values personnel like him. It also represents further humiliation for the Educational Inspection whose work has been disregarded. They also pointed out that this election comes after a first instance court decision which stated that Picuric was acting unlawfully which has cost fairly the school, i.e. the budget. Weekly Monitor asked the Ministry of Education for the reasoning of Picuric’s extended mandate and disregard of Educational Inspection recommendations for his dismissal, as well as about their opinion about 100,000 euros damage (as determined by the court) made by unlawful actions of this director. Weekly Monitor also asked what will be Ministry’s reaction if court confirms some of the criminal complaints filed against the director of Electro-technical School. Answers were not received. The Ministry, the Minister and the Director disregard findings of the Educational Inspection, but pay to a court instead. Pićurić sued professor Mladen Klikovac during 2015, stating that he insulted him in the classroom in front of the students, called him on a fight, and threatened him. Director the following day asked his students to sign statements about the event. Soon after that he initiated disciplinary proceedings against professor Klikovac for alleged “mobbing over director” and punished him with five percent salary reduction for three months.
The Basic Court in Cetinje annulled this disciplinary measure as unfounded, and local misdemeanor department in Podgorica determined that Klikovac was not guilty. His testimony in the court was confirmed by four former students of this school.
After these verdicts, Klikovac against Picuric, filed a criminal complaint for falsification of an official document, abuse of office, official misconduct and false reporting.
Basic State Prosecutor Nikola Boricic rejected in November last year a criminal complaint filed by Aleksandrina Vujacic, Ranko Ljumovic, Dragan Sandic and Mladen Klikovac against Picuric for: official misconduct, abuse of economic power, evasion of taxes and contributions, bribery, autocracy, falsification of a public document… At the beginning of this year, the State Prosecutor's Office found that “the decision of the Basic State Prosecutor's Office in Podgorica was based on incomplete factual state. Therefore, it is ordered to the Basic State Prosecutor's Office in Podgorica to fully determine the factual situation in order to make legal decision”.
Questions that we e-mailed to the official school account to Picuric in order to provide comments on criminal charges, findings of educational inspection, and damage established by court, were not answered. When video recording from the beginning of this story appeared, some employees in this school commented on social networks that they hoped that other videos would emerge as well. Videos in which students “snort the chalk line for pass mark”, as well as choral interpretation of Serbian nationalist songs (“King Peter’s Guard” and “From Topola, from Topola …”)…
foto: Borko ZOGOOVIC
DISCRIMINATION OF CHILDREN WHO TRAIN GYMNASTICS: No Use of Being Talented
Dejan Vucevic, the only international gymnastics judge in Montenegro, claims that gymnastics in Montenegro has been put to an end and that more than 100 children, who train it in Podgorica, have no opportunities to participate in competitions.
“There is only rhythmic gymnastics in Montenegro, the sports gymnastics has been put to an end,” says Dejan Vucevic, the only international gymnastics judge in Montenegro. Vucevic has spent his whole life in gymnastics, first as a competitor, and then, for decades, as a trainer.
He explains that there are more than 100 trainees in gymnastics and many talents in Podgorica, but there is no place where they can show their skills. They are denied access to domestic and international competitions. He accuses the Gymnastics Federation of Montenegro (GFM) that it completely disregarded sports gymnastics.
The result of such work, according to Vucevic, is that talented gymnasts go to the region: “Due to lack of conditions here children go to the region. Thus, two boys and one girl that I trained, who compete for Serbia now, have over 100 medals. I'm not glad that, instead for their own home, they win medals for another one, “Vucevic said.
Vucevic was one of the founders of the Gymnastics Federation of Montenegro (GFM), in which he was a member of the Assembly and the Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was a GFM’s delegate in 2010, when this Federation was admitted to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). “The Federation was established in 1994, and if we had been fortunate, this February, we would have celebrated 25 years of existence. Currently it has been turned into a rhythmic gymnastics federation,” he says.
Vucevic claims that already unfavourable conditions in this sport culminated in 2014 when new management was elected and when GFM’s central office was moved from Podgorica to Budva. He states that this followed after the disappearance of the Federation document and seal, and that new management was not elected according to the rules.
Vesna Radonic, President of GFM, denies Vucevic's allegations regarding unlawful election of the new management: “GFM operates in accordance with the Montenegrin Sports Law, which came into force in 2018, and it also must align all its activities with the rules of FIG and UEG. Therefore, no one can say that GFM was not established according to the procedures. This was confirmed by several inspection visits that came and checked the regularity of GFM work. All inspectors had a positive opinion on GFM’s work, “says GFM President for Weekly Monitor.
Vucevic claims that the new management of the Federation, as soon as it assumed its functions, disabled his gymnasts from participating in the international competition due to his public talks about the irregularities in the Federation: “The Federation sent us a dispatch that we cannot participate in the competition. They disallowed our children to compete – they could only perform within a non-competitive part of the event.”
Through the gymnastics club Gorica, which was led by Vucevic, generations of athletes have passed. Vucevic said that many top athletes started with gymnastics in this club, who in addition to gymnastics achieved results in other sports. He also pointed out to a number of students of the Faculty for Sport and Physical Education, who worked with this club. However, he explains that current situation disallows talents in sports gymnastics to compete at home, regional and international levels.
Neither Ministry of Sports has done anything to improve the situation – Vucevic says that since the registration of clubs had begun – seven gymnastics clubs were closed. “I submitted an application for the club Gorica to the Ministry of Sports and I was told that it was not complete. I asked if I could update it and the response was positive. Later, when I went there I was told that I cannot do that, “he explains.
Radonic however, claims that the problem is lack of licenses. “Clubs in order to compete in international competitions must meet the basic criteria of FIG, UEG, and GFM. The basic criteria are licenses in GFM, UEG and FIG. Unfortunately, our competitors are licensed only in GFM. Another problem is the lack of educated trainers and judges which is a requirement for competing at the international scene. This means that they currently, do not have FIG and UEG licenses, “she says.
She insists that sports gymnastics exists in Montenegro: “Sports gymnastics clubs are a club from Niksic and a club from Herceg Novi. These clubs compete within Montenegrin system of competitions according to the GFM calendar”. However, she does not deny that this sport in Montenegro is at a low level. “Due to objective reasons – lack of adequate training space and lack of tools necessary for quality performance of sports gymnastics”.
Vucevic on the other hand claims that “as far as sports gymnastics is concerned, our Federation is terminated. This Federation in Budva has nothing to do with sports gymnastics. I would like to ask institutions to who they give money to – 10.000 euros last year and 25.000 this year. Everywhere in the world, rhythmic gymnastics is separated from the sports, except here in Montenegro. ”
Radonic says that GFM did not close its door to anyone. “We repeatedly invited all sports and other gymnastics clubs to join GFM and to take part in all other activities carried out by the GFM.”
Cooperation with this questionable Federation is still impossible, says Vucevic and emphasizes that gymnastics is a sport in which competitors and trainers must advance their selves whole life: “But the persons in the Federation obviously do not care about the improvement and progress of children, it seems that other things, out of sports field, are for them in the first place.”
Vucevic has been waiting for years for a meeting with the Minister of Sports, Nikola Janovic.
“I’ve been requesting a meeting with Janovic for three years and I cannot reach him. I would like to talk to him as an athlete and to inform him about the situation regarding gymnastics. I believe that the Minister does not even know that I have been unsuccessfully, requesting a meeting for years. ”
There was no one to approve the sports hall
Vucevic said that, a few years ago, he visited primary and secondary schools in Podgorica with an elaborate on the construction of gymnastic hall. He explains that an international organization was willing to donate a hall. The plan envisaged for school to use the hall from the morning till 14:00h, while the club would use it from 16:00 to 22:00h. It was projected as the gymnastics center of Montenegro, which would have all necessary sports infrastructure, but also general children's health care provider and dental clinic. Vucevic said that at that time, famous gymnast from Slovenia, Miroslav Cerar promised to donate, upon the arrangement of the hall, two sets of gymnastics devices.
“When we presented the plan to directors of schools, they were thrilled, but they told us that they cannot do anything without the Ministry and the Minister,” says Vucevic.
In the end, they were told by the Ministry to avoid opening of sports halls within schools.
 Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique – FIG
 UEG – European Union of Gymnastics
A notorious example of “independent“ Montenegrin judiciary: How Prva Bank snatched €12.5 million from Knezevic via Azerbaijani minister
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.
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