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EU-supported project helps unveil international drug trafficking network

One of the biggest drug seizures in recent history was unveiled thanks to the EU-funded project “Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans”. The project supports the investigation and prosecution of organised crime in the Western Balkans. The project- with an operational budget of €14.5 million- is financed by the EU Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and co-financed by Germany.

“The complex police operation wouldn’t have been possible without the strong and trustworthy professional links between the Montenegrin and the Italian police. This is exactly what the EU project “Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans”, and similar EU projects before it, have built on for the past years”, commented Aivo Orav, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro.

The “Remus” had been under scrutiny of the Montenegrin police long before its seizure. The ship stayed in a Montenegrin port for several months before sailing to an unknown destination in North Africa where it embarked the drugs. Montenegrin investigators shared intelligence on the vessel with their Italian colleagues from the Guardia di Finanza and Central anti-drug department, with the support of the EU project expert team. Police surveillance revealed that the “Remus” turned off its position transmitter when it got near the North African coast, which raised the suspicions of the investigators. With the permission of Panamanian authorities, Italian finance police seized the vessel in international waters on 31 July and escorted it to Palermo, where the police drained the fuel tanks and discovered the drugs, wrapped in sealed brown bags. The entire 11-person crew was arrested for international drugs trafficking.

Background:

“Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans” is a €14.5 million multi-country project (incl. €13 million funded by the EU and € 1.5 million funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development). It provides permanent support to the law enforcement agencies of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo[*], Montenegro, Serbia. It is implemented by the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), in partnership with the Italian Interior Ministry (Department of Public Security/Central Directorate of Criminal police) and with the Centre for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), based in the Netherlands.

The project’s duration is two years (01/2018 –12/2019).

Source:  Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro

[*] This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.