Montenegro prosecution charges suspected leader of ‘Kavac’ gang

The offices of the Special Prosecutor in Podgorica, Montenegro. Photo: EPA / BORIS PEJOVIC

Montenegro’s Special State Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday filed an indictment against Slobodan Kascelan, the alleged leader of the alleged Kavac drug gang from Kotor, Radoje Zvicer and 12 others, accusing them of creating an organization criminal responsible for the aggravated murder of Nikola Stanisic.

Police arrested Kascelan, 58, on April 21 on suspicion of organizing a criminal group that had committed and planned several serious crimes, while another high-ranking gang member, Radoje Zvicer, escaped from the country.

On April 30, the state special procuratorate said Stanisic, a member of rival drug gang Skaljar, was murdered in 2020 at an unknown location and his body melted in acid.

Kascelan is listed in the police records of Montenegro as one of the leaders of the drug gang based in the city of Kotor. In 2019, he denied any involvement in drug trafficking.

The gang was embroiled in a six-year war with rival gang Skaljari, also from Kotor. At least 40 people have been killed in Montenegro, Serbia, Austria and Greece in the conflict.

The Kavac and Skaljari gangs take their names from the neighborhoods of Kotor, a medieval town of some 20,000 inhabitants in Boka Bay in Montenegro.

The conflict began in 2015, after 300 kilos of cocaine disappeared from an apartment in Valencia, Spain, in 2014.

In May 2017, the state special prosecutor’s office indicted Kascelan for organizing a criminal group involved in extortion, loan sharking, illegal possession of weapons, selling drugs, licensing drug use, bribery, serious crimes against public safety and money laundering.

In December 2018, he was arrested in the Czech Republic, under an Interpol Red Notice. Police said he was wanted for criminal prosecution in Montenegro on suspicion of attempted murder, creation of a criminal organization and loan sharking.

But the Podgorica Higher Court released him on bail in 2019, after accepting a bond of more than 500,000 euros in real estate. So far, he has only been accused of organized loan sharking.

Organized crime runs deep in Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic of some 630,000 people that for years served as a transit point for cigarettes and illicit drugs.

A UNESCO World Heritage site and popular tourist destination, Kotor made headlines a decade ago when it emerged that notorious Balkan drug lord Darko Saric, jailed in Belgrade in 2015 for trafficking of cocaine from Latin America, had started to invest huge sums of money in the city, mainly in tourism.

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