By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project – a network of investigative centres, media outlets and journalists – has handed Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic a far-from-flattering New Year’s award.
Its annual poll saw the long-standing Montenegrin strongman narrowly beat the wife and children of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev for the “award” of “Person of the Year in Organized Crime”.
Another Balkan leader, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, came third.
“We see this as a lifetime achievement award,” OCCRP’s editor and co-founder, Drew Sullivan, said.
“Nobody outside of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has run a state that relies so heavily on corruption, organized crime and dirty politics. It is truly and thoroughly rotten to the core,” Sullivan said of Djukanovic’s regime.
Over a political career that has lasted almost three decades, Djukanovic has constantly either been a prime minister or a head of state.
“While he casts himself as a progressive, pro-Western leader who recently helped his country join NATO and is on track to join the European Union, he has built one of the most dedicated kleptocracies and organized crime havens in the world,” the OCCRP maintains.
Nominating Djukanovic this year was Vanja Calovic, director of the Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector, MANS, a civil society organization at loggerheads with the Montenegrin government.
Calling the Prime Minister “the last European dictator”, Calovic said he had “captured our country for his own private interests and turned it into safe haven for criminals. While he, his family and friends enriched themselves, ordinary people suffer from poverty, injustice and lawlessness, while those who dare to talk about the corruption become his targets.”
Finishing a close second and third in the poll respectively were the wife and children of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and the Macedonian Prime Minister, Gruevski.
“The relatives of the Azerbaijani president own large chunks of the country’s economy and have worked to plunder the economy at the expense of the people,” the OCCRP says by way of explanation.
As for Prime Minister Gruevski who has run Macedonia for nine years and is accused for a plethora of corrupt affairs, OCCRP mentions only some of them.
“The Macedonian PM has wiretapped opposition parties and journalists, prosecuted political opponents and whitewashed murder investigations,” it says.
Previous winners of the annual OCCRP poll have been Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, and the Romanian Parliament.
The OCCRP, founded by Drew Sullivan and Paul Radu in 2006, is a network of 22 investigative reporting organisations funded by the Open Society Foundations, the US Agency for International Development, the Swiss government, the National Endowment for Democracy and other donors.