Montenegrin police have found more than 1,200 packages of cocaine in a shipment of bananas near the country’s capital of Podgorica. The seizure amounted to one tonne of cocaine, making it the largest ever drug haul in Montenegro.
On Thursday, local media reported that police were searching several locations throughout Podgorica and the port of Bar, with the main roads of Podgorica blocked off by law enforcement. Police carried out several arrests, and questioned individuals suspected of drug trafficking.
Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic celebrated the operation as the largest drug haul ever seized in the country’s history.
“What a feat,” Abazovic wrote on Twitter, “We are doing what we promised. Montenegro will not be a country of crime.”
Montenegro sits along a main route for drug traffickers looking to reach the larger markets of Western Europe. For six years, the country has battled a bloody struggle over the drugs trade between the rival Škaljari and Kavač gangs, with at least 40 people from Montenegro, Serbia, Greece and Austria killed in the conflict so far.
Following an initial rift in 2014, the Kavač crime group has joined forces with “football hooligans” with ties to high-level Serbian politicians, while the Škaljari group is aligned with a Serbian organization led by Filip Korać. Korać’s group has been labelled by government intelligence groups as “one of most dangerous crime groups operating internationally.”
An alleged member of the Škaljari gang was recently killed, and another injured, after the two were involved in transporting a bomb. Their car exploded on the evening of 4 March 2021 in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Podgorica. The explosion also injured a woman working in a store nearby.
Individuals killed by the Škaljari and Kavač drug rivalry so far are mostly gang members, as well as their family members and associates. Of the latter, a lawyer and a former Montenegrin parliamentarian are dead; an innocent bystander was killed by stray bullet in Podgorica cafe when a gang member was killed by an assassin wearing a silicone mask.
In fact, many of the murders tied to the Montenegrin drug war have been carried out with terrifying precision. Last year, a man was killed in a Belgrade parking garage after being followed by two men armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle. The attackers circled the victim’s vehicle, firing multiple rounds to kill Kavač gang member Davorin Baltić. The second man in the car, a police officer, was uninjured.