The special prosecutor’s office for organized crime in Montenegro on Wednesday examined two directors of the former state-owned Telekom firm in an apparent breakthrough in the unresolved Montenegrin Telekom bribery case.
The two men are suspected of stealing millions of euro during the sale of the company to Magyar Telekom.
Former directors Oleg Obradovic and Miodrag Ivanovic were questioned on suspicion of illicitly gaining 2.3 million euros in connection with Telekom’s sale in 2005.
Obradovic and Ivanovic denied any offence and their lawyer, Zoran Piperovic, said the description of their alleged crime was “almost like a novel”.
” I don’t know how the prosecution plans to prove that my defendants illicitly did anything, as it is evident that Hungarian Telekom, which is now the [company] owner, did not report any damage. If there is no damage, there was no offence,” Piperovic said.
Magyar Telekom bought 76.53 per cent of Montenegrin Telekom in 2005 and thus became the majority owner.
Evidence of corruption during the sale was revealed in the US when Magyar Telekom shares were listed on the American Stock Exchange in 2012.
The US authorities said they had information that three directors of Magyar Telekom bribed several Montenegrin officials as well as the “sister of a senior official who is practicing law” in connection with the purchase of the Montenegrin company.
Montenegrin media claimed that the “sister” in question was Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s sister Ana Kolarevic, who is a lawyer in Podgorica. Djukanovic and Kolarevic denied the claims.
Following the US action, in 2012, Montenegro’s organised crime prosecutor launched a probe into the claims that officials accepted bribes from Magyar Telekom but it did not result in indictments.
The case has posed a first important test for the new special prosecutor, Milovoje Katnic, who was appointed in July and immediately re-opened the Telekom investigation.
Early in November, Katnic visited the US but denied that his trip was connected to the Telekom bribe probe, saying he was on the “study visit”.
The US has repeatedly urged a thorough probe into the privatisation of the state-owned company. In 2014, the US embassy in Podgorica urged the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and bring any guilty parties to justice.
Parliament launched its own probe into alleged corruption in the privatisation of Telekom in 2012 but the committee finished its work nine months later with no official findings.