Three decades in service - the dizzying rise and painful fall of Veselin Veljović

Behind the era of Veselin Veljović, the most powerful security guard since the independence of Montenegro, there remained a series of unsolved murders, attacks on journalists and crimes that damaged state property.

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Veselin Veljović, Photo: Luka Zeković
Veselin Veljović, Photo: Luka Zeković
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

The former director of the Police Administration, Veselin Veljović, was arrested this morning in an operation by the Special Police Department on the order of the Special State Prosecutor's Office, "Vijesti" has learned.

Veljović was the director of the Police Administration from the summer of 2007 to 2011, and then in the period from July 30, 2018 to December 17, 2020, he was the first man of the Montenegrin police in his second term.

During his career at the head of the security sector, Veselin Veljović was often accused by opposition parties, some non-governmental organizations and the media of non-transparency, abuse of police and power, unquestioning political loyalty to Milo Đukanović, but also of involvement in numerous cases of the sale of state property.

After the end of his first mandate, Veljović was an adviser to the then President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović, in the field of security and defense, and during the government of Milo Đukanović from 2014, he was also the secretary of the National Security Council.

When he left UP in December 2020 after a conversation with the then Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović, he found employment again in the cabinet of former President Milo Đukanović.

Veljović held the position of advisor for security and defense until May 20 of this year.

From Pljevlja to Podgorica

After graduating from the Military Academy in Belgrade, Veljović was in the JNA for a while, and then at the beginning of 1992 he got a job in the then MUP of Montenegro, where that year he was appointed commander of the Police Station in the Pljevlja Security Center.

At the beginning of the nineties, during the political and state alliance between the official Podgorica and Slobodan Milošević's Serbia, in Pljevlje and the surrounding villages of Bukovica, paramilitary Serbian units persecuted the Bosniak population. Although some Bosniaks from that region questioned his role in those events, Veljović claimed that the Montenegrin police made peace possible in Pljevlja. During that period, around 125 families were displaced from Bukovica.

In 1995, Veljović was appointed commander of the SAJ, where at the beginning of 1998, during the political turmoil between Milo Đukanović, who controlled the Montenegrin police, and Momir Bulatović, he played a key role during the violent demonstrations, on January 14, 1998, when he and his unit did not allow protesters to enter the then Government building.

Veljović was the commander of the SAJ until 2005, and during his ten-year engagement he completed several international professional-specialist courses and seminars in the country and abroad that analyze terrorism as a global challenge and security threat...

For his expert and professional work in the Ministry, he was evaluated with the highest official grades and awarded and praised several times.

On the occasion of the Day of Security, he was awarded the Order of Merit for the field of defense and security of the first degree and was awarded the plaque of the Association of the Association of NOR Fighters and Anti-Fascists of Montenegro, for his services in the development and improvement of anti-fascism in Montenegro.

Murders, attacks on journalists, black trios

Behind the era of Veselin Veljović, the most powerful security guard since the independence of Montenegro, there remained a series of unsolved murders, attacks on journalists and crimes that damaged state property.

His era was also marked by the meteoric rise of Montenegrin organized criminal groups, which in the last decade have grown so much that they are recognized as one of the biggest threats on the criminal map of Europe.

In 2013, former police officer Brajuško Brajušković accused Veselin Veljović of allegedly organizing the "black threes" - beating groups, which allegedly beat unfit journalists, oppositionists, and dissidents at the beginning of the 21st century.

That affair never got an epilogue.

In May 2004, the editor of "Dana" Duško Jovanović was murdered, but the orderers and direct perpetrators were never found. For this case, Veljović repeatedly claimed that it was solved operationally, but that it was "irretrievably lost due to the professional incompetence of the prosecutor at the time."

During Veljović's management of the police, Vijesti journalist Tufik Softić was beaten in Berane in 2007, and a waiting list was organized for the director of "Vijesti" Željko Ivanović on the night of September 1, 2007.

Veselin Veljović
photo: Luka Zeković

Veljović's driver and head of security, Milenko Rabrenović, was tried for threats to journalist Olivera Lakić. Previously, in 2011, she wrote about tobacco smuggling from the "Tara" factory in Mojkovac.

At the time of his leadership, in 2011, a falsified listing of the telephone conversations of then Prime Minister Igor Lukšić originated from the Police Administration. With that listing, an attempt was made to compromise Igor Lukšić by including the name of convicted drug lord Darko Šarić among the callers. Although Lukšić, as prime minister, insisted on an efficient investigation, it was never revealed who falsified the listing.

After that incident, as well as the pressures of the international community, Veljović had to leave as head of the UP.

Harmful contracts

Part of the non-governmental sector, as well as the media, have for years accused Veselin Veljović of harmful contracts related to the sale of property owned by the police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The "Can" affair cost the state more than 10 million euros based on the court verdict on the lawsuit filed by Aco Đukanović, the brother of the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović. Đukanović sued the state due to an unfulfilled contract on the transfer of land that was owned by the Police Administration.

Veljović was also designated as the person responsible for concluding a problematic contract in 2011, on the purchase of the camp-hotel "Zlatica" in Podgorica from businessman Žarko Burić for 8,3 million euros, for the purposes of training the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit.

Previously, the government sold the camp-hotel "Zlatica" and two other hotels ("Crna Gora" and "Ljubović") to Burić for a much lower price of 4,7 million euros.

Veljović is the owner of a three-room apartment in the Normal company building, which was built by Burić, because of which MANS claimed to have bought it by paying only a third of its value. MANS filed a criminal complaint against Veljović and Burić due to the suspicion that the state budget was damaged in order to obtain illegal financial benefits. This case has never moved away from the prosecutor's investigation.

The media also wrote that the longtime first policeman has enormous wealth and that he hides the fact that he owns a house worth over one million euros in the Dahna neighborhood.

He denied this several times, claiming that it was his father-in-law's mansion...

Arrested in Cetinje

In May, the Higher Court in Podgorica overturned the first-instance acquittal of Veljović, who was tried for having committed the criminal offense of assaulting an official in the performance of his official duties in the early morning of September 5, 2021 in Cetinje, before the enthronement of Metropolitan Joaniki.

Veselin Veljović
photo: Luka Zeković

In the dramatic events of September 4-5, 2021, Veljović was in the very heart of the capital, and then the videos showed how, after talking with his former colleagues, he ran into the cordon...

He was arrested that day and released from custody two days later.

Bonus video: