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April 11, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 340

Bar - Bari, via Mafia

by Velizar Brajovic

The Head of the Center for Security in Bar, Vaso Baosic (39), who was arrested by Italian police in Bari on April 1, is still in jail, even though there were announcements that he was supposed to be released on April 6.

“Baosic’s release can be expected at any moment,” it was stated for VREME at the MUP of Montenegro.  “He was arrested on the basis of suspicions which arose from statements made by Italian criminals, arrested last January in Bar and delivered to Italian authorities.  That action was conducted by Baosic himself.”

However, at the press conference held by the Italian Agency for Anti-Mafia Investigation (DIA), it was suggested that the Head of the Bar Center for Security is suspected of participating in criminal activities of the regional mafia of Puglia — Sacra Corana Unita — and that in Bar, he held in hiding its members who were sought by Italian police.  According to those citations, Baosic received for his services 35 million lira (35,000 DEM) per month for at least one year.  With him, DIA also arrested Djuro Crnojevic, who presents himself as a translator; he is suspected of personally attending different mafia gatherings.

SURPRISE: Baosic went to Bari, as was stated, because of a trip to Milano for a medical examination.  He had been seriously wounded by a hand grenade during the January demonstrations in Podgorica, but after medical care in Podgorica and the VMA in Belgrade, he still had two pieces of shrapnel remaining in his body — one in his leg, the other in the proximity of his heart.

According to a VREME source, Baosic’s and Crnojevic’s arrest was spectacular.  Both were extremely surprised by the “crowd” of TV and photo cameras.  However, DIA agents got to Baosic before the cameramen and reporters did.  Verbal resistance ensued — Baosic kept repeating that he’s the Chief of Police in Bar — which culminated in handcuffing.

News of the arrest of the Head of the Center for Security of Bar was at first received in Montenegro as an April Fools joke.  The public was just as surprised as the government.  The surprise was all the greater, as is being learned, because the day before a certain high official of the Italian police had been staying in Podgorica.  During talks with Montenegrin police, there had not been the slightest suggestion that any member of the Montenegrin MUP was suspected of involvement with the Italian mafia, nor that anyone was being sought in Italy on those grounds.  What’s more, on that occasion good cooperation between police forces on both sides of the Adriatic was stressed, only to be crowned with the mentioned arrests in Bari.

Italian courts hold Baosic accountable for statements made by delivered mafiosi — brothers Tomazea and Rafael Laspareta, and Giuseppe Celemare.  The latter has been sentenced in absentia in Italy to fifteen years, while in Bar he supposedly owned ten speed boats.  After the arrests, it was announced that he was not involved in any criminal activities in Montenegro.

According to Italian sources, all three organized the smuggling of cigarettes, arms and drugs on the eastern side of the Adriatic, while Baosic gave them information about movements of different military and police marine patrols.  Besides statements made by these arrested mafiosi, the MUP of Montenegro is emphatic, there is no other tangible evidence against Baosic.

EXPLOITATION: The Baosic Affair went off like a bomb in the campaign for early elections in Montenegro.

The People’s Socialist Party (SNP) of Montenegro issued a statement in which it claimed that the words of its President, Momir Bulatovic, had come true: “Efforts and warnings by many political forces and personalities against the state serving to protect crime were all in vain.  In the debate between the two presidential candidates, prior to the second round of elections, Mr. Milo Djukanovic pretentiously stated that what was at issue were mere innocent (Italian) tourists, and not hard-core criminals, as Momir Bulatovic kept saying and as the whole of Montenegro and the whole of Europe well knew.”

The greater part of Belgrade’s state media directly supports SNP statements, both by carrying and embellishing reports from foreign papers, as well as with their own information and research.  The otherwise very apathetic daily, Politika, immediately reacted to Baosic’s case, giving him extensive room.  The gist of most of these articles — besides accusations of smuggling and criminal activities on the part of the present Montenegrin government and MUP  — is conjecture that Baosic could not have acted on his own initiative, and that he has been “sacrificed” due to higher interests.  On the other hand, official Podgorica is asserting that it expects Baosic’s immanent release, and an assessment of the evidence used for his arrest in the near future.

 “Every individual, regardless of the official position he occupies, must be treated with such fairness that first of all it is found out why he has been denied freedom.  This state will not protect anyone who abuses it, but it also won’t brand anyone prior to the courts have established his guilt,” stated the Montenegrin Premier, Filip Vujanovic.
In any case, regardless of what happens, one thing holds true: the Baosic Affair goes well beyond its legal implications.  One’s opinion toward it will be one of the key issues, both in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Montenegro, as well as in relations between official Belgrade and official Podgorica.

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