The Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body has warned in its evaluation report of widespread criminal influences within the Montenegrin police force.
The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) released its report on Tuesday. In it, GRECO called on Montenegro authorities to increase efforts to reduce the political influence and leverage of criminal groups over police in the country.
“Operational independence from political influence or from influence from criminal networks is particularly important in preventing corruption,” the report reads, “The GRECO evaluation team was therefore critically concerned about information indicating that both political influence and influence from criminal groups over the police is perceived as a serious problem in Montenegro.”
On 18 July, senior police officer Petar Lazovic was arrested for his alleged ties to the notorious Kavac gang, a group of drug smugglers from the town of Kotor. Lazovic is accused of providing them official protection for their drug, arms and tobacco smuggling operations.
Montenegro also issued a warrant for the arrest of police officer Ljubo Milovic, who was allegedly working with Lazovic to shield drug smugglers from authorities.
On 8 March, Montenegrin authorities arrested the head of the economic crime department, Dalibor Medojevic, on suspicion of abuse of office and having created a criminal organization.
The prosecution said Medojevic had been in talks with members of a prominent crime gang called the Skaljari gang, also originating from Montenegro’s coastal town of Kotor. Medojevic is also accused of having provided gang members with information regarding investigations into their activities.
In December last year, Darko Lalovic, another police officer, was arrested. In this instance, Lalovic was accused of having been in communication with the members of the Kavac clan via the encrypted Sky ECC app.
According to the GRECO report, Montenegrin authorities must improve internal procedures for appointing police officers and eradicating criminal influences.
“Police officers should go through integrity checks prior to their appointments and throughout their career. Internal anti-corruption structures within the police have been set up, but their role should be clarified, and the practical implementation of the Code of Police Ethics ensured,” reads the report.
According to public records, the Montenegrin Police Directorate is made up of more than 4,500 employees, including some 3,800 police officers.
The European Commission, as part of this year’s report on Montenegro’s progress toward EU membership, said the Montenegrin government should boost its efforts to conduct effective and independent investigations to address police violations and corruption.
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