Published in Nacional number 399, 2003-07-08

Autor: Berislav Jelinić


Djukanović revealed through wiretapped phonecalls with his lover

Charges have been raised for cigarette smuggling against Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic is the fruit of several years of investigation by the Naples prosecutor's office and wiretapping telephone conversations between Djukanovic and his lover and the Italian mobsters

Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanović could become the first head of state to be arrested and extradited to the Italian justice system upon the end of his mandate. It became clear that such a situation could happen on 30 June 2001. That is when the Italian State Prosecutor in Naples completed the investigation in the case “Organization in the smuggling of foreign tobacco, Articles 416 and 291.” Following the investigation, he raised charged against several individuals, and sought the arrest of Milo Djukanović.

This directly confirms the majority of Nacional’s findings on the Balkan tobacco mafia, after a series of articles since May 2001 on the role of Milo Djukanović in these criminal activities (all articles are available on Nacional’s web site in both Croatian and English at

The indictment is made up of 364 pages, and marks Djukanović as the main figure who permitted the mafia to gather together in the international smuggling of cigarettes. Together with Djukanović, the protagonists of this story are Paolo Savino, a close associate of imprisoned Italian mobster Ciro Mazarello, Dušanka Jeknić, representative of the Montenegrin Trade Mission in Milan, Veselin Barović called Vescobar and Branko Vujošević, called Banja, the head of the company MTT (Montenegro Tabak Transit) and a number of members of the Italian mafia organization Camorra.

The first information on the indictment was released early last week. A short agency news brief stated that the Italians had sought the arrest of Milo Djukanović, however, that the investigative judge overruled this request on the grounds that Djukanović, as Premier, enjoys immunity under international law.

“This is very outrageous speculation and this does not even deserve my attention,” stated Milo Djukanović to the request.

At the end of last week, however, it became evident that the indictment against Djukanović and his mafia partners was not just outrageous speculation. The Naples State Prosecutor revealed a series of details from their comprehensive investigation, and the Montenegrin daily paper Vijesti began to daily report the translation of those documents.

After Nacional received the entire report by the Naples State Prosecutor’s Office, circles close to that institution revealed to Nacional certain other details in the case unknown to the public.

The investigation entered into its final phase in 2000 and was launched in the mid 1990s. At that time, Antonia D’Amato and Giovanni Russo, officials with the prosecutor’s office, in cooperation with Pierluigi Vigno from the Italian Direzione Nazionale Antimafia began to wiretap a large group of members of the Naples mafia organization Camorra suspected of being involved in the international smuggling of cigarettes. Through the wiretapped phone calls, they learned that Antonio Nuvoletta, Gennaro Virgilio, Giancarlo Donzelli, Michele Armento, Pietro Pagnini and their associates from Montenegro smuggled cigarettes into Italy and on further to other countries in the European Union. These cigarettes were first purchased by two people with residence in the US. Those were Patrizio Clerica (born in Santiago de Chile on 20 June 1944 and with residence in Miami at 1643 Brickel Avenue) and Giuseppe Pataro (born in Florence on 12 February 1956 and with residence in Miami), who had contracts with international tobacco companies and were the first link in the cigarette resale chain. The cigarettes were paid for with money collected from the local Italian mafia branches by Antonio Nuvoletto, one of the five Italian mobsters arrested early last week. The collected money was then transferred to Lugano, Switzerland. In charge of the transactions were Demetrio Governale and Giuseppe Guidote, who handed the money over to Paulo Savino.

Paulo Savino was born in Naples on 28 June 1939 and lives on Vito Morcota Street in Lugano. The Italian investigators learned that Savino was the main link between the Italian mobsters and a number of Montenegrins led by Milo Djukanović, who had allowed the cigarettes to be moved from Montenegro to Italy and the EU. Savino’s activities have been tracked by the Italian police since the early 1990s. His name was first mentioned in conjunction with cigarette smuggling on 27 September 1993 when Ciro Mazatrello called Prince was arrested in Lugano and when the Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Perović was officially accused of cigarette smuggling. Perović was at the time the mediator in the trade of cigarettes between the Montenegrin government and Mazarello. Mazarello’s main operative in the smuggling was Paolo Savino called Marquis. His role in the operation became significant because he knew the Latina dialect, from the area around Naples, spoken by the mafia there. Savino had his own library there.

Savino then tried to obtain exclusive rights for the use of the Zetatrans warehouse in the Port of Zelenik and the exclusive right for the trade of cigarettes passing through Montenegro on their way to Italy for Mazarello’s company Gisto Investments. The value of that trade was estimated at 200 million DEM annually, bringing in about 70 million in profits.

Perović and Savino were in regular contact from October 1992 to October 1993. The Italian investigators wiretapped the calls between Perović’s and Savino’s offices, and the conversations between Perović’s office and Savino’s library in Latina. Savino managed to win a privileged position for Mazarello’s company in October 1993, several weeks after Mazarello had already been arrested. Perović, who arrived in Rome on 2 October 1992 as the representative of the Montenegrin Trade Ministry, had to be removed from his post in Italy. According to the findings of the Naples prosecutor’s office, after the arrest of Ciro Mazarello, Savino took over control of the operations. Instead of working with Branko Perović, he continued to work with Branko Vujošević and Veselin Barović. This was a time when control over the smuggling was taken over on the Montenegrin side by the Montenegrin intelligence agency (SDB).

In order to further increase the control over the smuggling, Montenegro at the time founded the company Montenegro Tabak Trade (MTT), and Branko Vujošević and Veselin Barović made their way to directors of that company. This was no coincidence, as the cigarette smuggling could be taken over on by those people who enjoyed the greatest trust of Milo Djukanović. Both men were close friends of Branko Perović, and it was Perović who recommended to Djukanović that Barović should get the job. Considering that Djukanović had not met Barović prior to that, Perović introduced them.

Vujošević was previously known to the Montenegrin public as the former director of the Podgorica Tobacco Factory, and he was a representative of the Montenegrin Chamber of Commerce in the Italian Port of Bari, one of the places most threatened by cigarette smuggling, where he had excellent business connections.

The cooperation between Paolo Savino, Branko Vujošević and Veselin Barović was precisely organized. Savino organized the transfer of the Italian mafia money to the accounts of the American resalers. The cigarettes were then transferred to Montenegro via a Dutch port, and stored in the Zetatrans warehouse. There they were controlled by Vujošević and Barović, who were responsible for moving them to Italy. The main connection between Savino and the Montenegrins was Dušanka Jeknić, representative of the Montenegrin Trade Mission in Milan. Furthermore, the Italian investigators learned by wiretapping her phone that she was the direct link between Savino and Djukanović. In September 2001, Dušanka Jeknić was recorded speaking with the office of Milo Djukanović: first she asked his assistant and them him directly to permit the “movement of the goods” to Italy. She asked that because the payments from Lugano conducted by Savino were late. In wiretapping her phone, the investigators learned that the money had been paid into the account directly controlled by Milo Djukanović, Vujošević and Barović. “She informed them of the payments made by Savino to the bank accounts handled by Djukanović, Vujošević and Barović,” states the indictment by the state prosecutor from Naples.

The Italian investigators also managed in this way to collect evidence that Savino paid bills with a credit card made abroad by Milo Djukanović. Dušanka Jeknić first came to Milan in the early 1990s as the wife of Janko Jeknić, then Montenegrin Economic Council in Milan. Jeknić was later promoted to Montenegrin Foreign Minister before he was killed in a car crash in Novo Selo near Podgorica on 17 January 1997. After his death, Dušanka Jeknić was promoted to the post of representative of the Montenegrin Trade Mission in Milan, and became Milo Djukanović’s lover. Thanks to her role in the cigarette smuggling, she lived a very comfortable life in Milan. The Italian investigators followed her easily. She mainly moved among the most expensive boutiques in Milan’s Via Monte Napoleone. She most frequently shopped in the Gucci, Cartier or Tincatti shops, where she was known as the “Cash Lady”, for she almost always paid in cash. One time, she purchased a Cartier watch for Djukanović, worth a total of 150 thousand Euro. It was discovered that she frequently, either alone or in the company of Djukanović, stayed in the presidential suite of the luxurious Milan Hotel “Principe di Savoia”. These two and Veselin Barović were also followed in September 2000 when they stayed at the luxurious Hotel Calla di Volpe on the Emerald Coast and in the Quisisana Hotel on the island of Capri. The Italian investigators also learned that she was in very close relations with Djukanović, as well as with Svetozar Marović, then President of Serbia and Montenegro, whom she hosted in Milan several times while he was head of the Montenegrin parliament.

At the end of last week, Nacional asked Dušanka Jeknić for her comment on these serious allegations. “She has been on vacation in Montenegro for the last three weeks. I don’t know when she will be returning, but I will pass on your message,” stated her daughter Ksenija.

Circles close to the Italian investigators have confirmed for Nacional that the part of the investigation tied to the investigation against Milo Djukanović for cigarette smuggling has been handled by Guiseppe Scelsi, prosecutor from Bari. The Naples investigators also have evidence that Djukanović enables Italian mobster Francesco Della Tore to issue phony permits for the import of the cigarettes, after which point, Della Tore was arrested by Scelsi for smuggling. Francesco Della Tore led the second mafia faction by which cigarette smuggling was conducted by the same formula, in cooperation with the same people from Montenegro. This was revealed to Nacional in October 2001 by Goran Stanjević, a long time associate in Switzerland of the Montenegrin government. “Lugano was the centre of the business, because that’s where all the Italian smugglers, registered in Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands or similar off-shore zones, paid the Montenegrin authorities. Those companies all had branch offices in Lugano. At the head of the companies were men who were well known: Della Tore and Arcelasco, as well as Gerardo Cuomo who functioned under the two, and who has been in a Swiss prison for some time.”

He also said that their companies, like the companies of other Italian mobsters, sent the cigarettes through the company Danzas from the Slovenian Port of Kopar to Zetatrans in Montenegro. “This business could be conducted only by those companies with approval from the Montenegrin authorities, and the companies MTT and MIA were primary. The majority of deals was agreed to verbally, and MTT and MIA were like the middlemen which guaranteed that Zetatrans had approval from the Montenegrin government. In this chain, one of the most important links was the Intercambi Exchange Office in Lugano. This is where the Italian companies paid their fees to the Montenegrin authorities, and cigarettes were not released from the Port of Bar until the confirmation slips arrived from the exchange office that the money had been paid. The Italians paid the Montenegrins about $63 for each crate of cigarettes. Only $30 ended up in the Zetatrans account and was later transferred to the state budget. The rest ended up in private accounts,” stated Stanjević for Nacional.

The investigation against Djukanović and his associated in Bari was even more detailed that the one conducted by the state prosecutor’s office in Naples. The indictment in that case will likely be ready in August, and it is likely that this case will also result in an arrest warrant for Milo Djukanović and his mafia accomplices.

The serious charges against Djukanović for corruption were released at the end of October 2002. At that time, he was accused of corruption by ten EU states in a lawsuit launched against the multinational tobacco company RJ Reynolds. Though Djukanović has not been arrested due to his political immunity, it is difficult to believe that the state prosecutor’s office from Naples will withdraw their arrest warrant. As his political opponents have been increasingly requesting that Montenegro remove the burden of the mafia from the state, it appears that it is only a matter of time before the charges against Djukanović will become front and centre.

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