|Arrested ex-mayor Zarko Pavicecic | Photo: DPS.|
Montenegrin police on Wednesday arrested the former mayor Zarko Pavicevic on suspicion of abuse of office linked to his private construction company.
Pavicevic, ex-mayor of the coastal town of Bar, was arrested on a warrant issued by the special prosecutor for corruption and organized crime.
The prosecution confirmed that the case related to the period when Pavicevic was mayor of Bar, until 2014, at the same as being a majority shareholder in a private company, Institute for Construction of Bar.
Danijela Krkovic, Pavicevic’s associate in his construction company, was also detained on Wednesday.
Pavicevic is a senior figure in the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, which has been in power for 25 years in Montenegro under Prime Minister Milo Đukanović.
An investigation into Pavicevic has run for several years since the anti-corruption organization MANS lodged a criminal case against him and several others in 2011.
MANS researched into Pavicevic and his firms in connection with several business deals made with the city administration and people supposed to be foreign investors.
In July, the prosecution launched several separate investigations into alleged multi-million-euro frauds related to Pavicevic’s construction company.
Pavicevic’s arrest is the latest in a series of arrests of officials carried out by the special prosecutor’s office since the start of summer.
In August, police arrested the mayor and other officials of the scandal-hit resort of Budva, on suspicion of abuse of office and of damaging the local budget by millions of euros.
Mayor Lazar Radjenovic, former mayor Rajko Kuljaca, deputy mayor Dragan Marovic and local official Milena Marovic Bogdanovic are all under arrest – as is Alexander Ticic, an advisor to Prime Minister Djukanovic.
Marovic and Marovic Bogdanovic are the brother and daughter of Svetozar Marovic, the former president of the now defunct State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
The crackdown comes ahead of a new European Union progress report, expected in October or November. Last year’s report urged Montenegro to prosecute more high-profile corruption cases.
Political analyst Nedeljko Rudovic told BIRN on Thursady that the Montenegrin government was trying to boost its image ahead of the upcoming report.
“This has certainly been progress compared to a few years ago, when Djukanovic’s government did not acknowledge that there was corruption at a high political level,” Rudovic said.
Dramatic arrests of senior officials have put the spotlight back on the wider issue of corruption in Montenegro and within the ruling party.
While some say the arrests show that Montenegro is finally dealing with high-level corruption, others say the arrests are just a settling of scores within the strongest party.
The EU has made a more effective fight against organized crime and corruption one of Montenegro’s seven key priorities if it wants to advance towards membership. The country also hopes to receive an invitation to join NATO by the end of this year.