EU investigates cigarette smuggling in Montenegro

PODGORICA -- European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is conducting four investigations in Montenegro and one of them is focused on cigarette smuggling.

OLAF Spokesman Johan Volt told Podgorica-based daily Danas that the office still had no liaison officer in Montenegro.

OLAF, an office of the European Commission, has several sectors. The Tobacco and Counterfeit Goods Unit strictly deals with cigarette smuggling and fake products.

There is suspicion that the production of Cleopatra cigarettes in the Podgorica Tobacco Company (DKP) is just a smokescreen for cigarette smuggling.

Egypt-based Eastern Company Export Department Head Farag Mourad announced a lawsuit against the Podgorica Tobacco Company in early September, stating that his company, which owns the Cleopatra brand, had never given the Montenegrin company a permission to produce the cigarettes.

DKP officials announced earlier that they had reached deals with two new foreign companies. Podgorica-based daily Vijesti has reported that one of the companies, Intercorp-Finance, is not registered in France as DKP said, but in Beirut.

The second company, Virginia Tobacco PTE, has been deleted from the company register in Singapore.

“There are too many irregularities to think it is a coincidence. On the contrary, those irregularities show very well that this is a classic smuggling and that unfortunately Montenegrin institutions and individuals who control it, are behind the smuggling,” Socialist People's Party of Montenegro’s Velizar Kaluđerović has said.

Vijesti reported earlier that it was suspected that an illegal cigarette factory operated in Mojkovac and that the cigarettes produced there were intended for smuggling. The information was confirmed by the Montenegrin police, security services and state officials.

Two border police officers Enver Dacić and Hamdo Murić have stated that a “trafficking route” toward Kosovo is open and that the illegal cigarette factory exists in Mojkovac.

The current situation in Montenegro, when it comes to the cigarette smuggling, is completely different now than in the period from 1994 until 2001, explained Volt.

“Montenegro was in those several years a transit country for cigarettes that were probably smuggled into the EU,” he stressed.