More than ten million euros worth of tobacco has been stolen from hangars in the Port of Bar since 28 December last year, said Montenegro customs authorities on Thursday.
“The cigarettes were taken six times from December 28, 2021, when the first theft was recorded, to the beginning of February, in a total of eight trucks,” said Milena Petricevic, the head of the Customs Office, “after the theft was registered, we also suspended eight more custom officers.”
The Port of Bar is notorious for its role in the illicit cigarette industry. On 7 February, the port was evacuated after an unknown person called to warn management that a bomb was planted on the port premises. The following day, the customs office announced that 10.5 million euros worth of tobacco had been stolen from hangars belonging to Montenegro Duvan Commerce and Tobacco Trade MNE.
Earlier this week, police arrested two men in relation to their suspected role in the smuggling of 11,349 boxes of cigarettes out of the port: Dejan Dabanovic, a customs officer, and Mimo Perocevic, the owner of a private truck company. The Special State Prosecutor’s Office has accused the men of smuggling tobacco and abuse of authority.
“Prosecutor found that the customs seal was damaged while inspections determined that 11,349 packages of various types of cigarettes were missing,” the prosecution office said.
In July last year, the Special State Prosecution Office investigated a similar case of tobacco theft from the Port of Bar. In that case, more than one thousand boxes of cigarettes had been stolen, valued at half a million euros. According to authorities, unknown persons broke into hangars belonging to companies Aurora and Atlant Mont and stole the goods.
According to media reports at the time, the hangars were owned by Dragan Vujacic. Vujacic had been tried before the Higher Court for cigarette smuggling in 2005, but was ultimately acquitted in 2013.
An MP from Montenegro’s Democratic Front party, Nebojsa Medojevic, called on authorities to investigate the case as soon as possible.
“How is it possible for goods to be stolen from a customs warehouse when there were two padlocks? Somebody stole almost a ton of cigarettes, and authorities claim they don’t know who did it,” he posted on Twitter.
In July 2021, Montenegrin authorities announced plans to prohibit the storage of tobacco products in the Port of Bar as part of efforts to curb tobacco and cigarette smuggling. At present, containers must now pass through scanners, and police have been deployed at the port.