Murdered Croatia Journalist Pukanic Was Key Witness on Balkan Tobacco Mafia

World | October 31, 2008, Friday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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The Croatian journalist Ivo Pukanic, who was murdered in Zagreb on October 23, had been one of the main witnesses in a Balkan cigarette contraband investigation of the police in the Italian city of Bari, the Italian Prosecutor Guiseppe Scelsi announced as quoted by the Trieste newspaper Il Piccolo.

Scelsi expressed the alarm of the Italian prosecution over the assassination of the owner of the Croatian newspaper Nacional, who was also its Editor-in-Chief, because it was going to affect the investigation against the Balkan cigarette smuggling mafia.

The Prosecutor also pointed out that another journalist who was also a witness in the tobacco contraband case - the Editor-in-Chief of Montenegro's Dan Daily Dusko Jovanovic - had been murdered in Podgorica on May 27, 2004.

According to Scelsi, the current Prime Minister and former President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic had also been investigated as potentially involved in the Balkan cigarette smuggling ring but the investigation against him would be terminated because of his diplomatic immunity.

The owner of the Croatian newspaper Nacional Ivo Pukanic and the marketing director of the publication Niko Franjic were murdered by a bomb explosion before the newspaper's office in downtown Zagreb.

The Croatian media announced Thursday the police had arrested a five suspects for Pukanic's murder including Robert Matanic.

Matanic is known in Bulgaria as the leader of the assassination group that allegedly executed Dimitar Hristov, Kaloyan Savov and Zhivko Mitev and injured two other people in a shootout on June 4, 2004.

The incident, in which the assassins were dressed like Orthodox priests and escaped unhurt from the crime scene, happened in the "Art Decor" bar in Sofia's suburbs.

Matanic is also suspected of being involved in the murder of one of the leading Bulgarian mobsters in the recent years, Milcho Bonev, aka Bai Mile, in 2004.

Matanic was extradited to Bulgaria from Serbia on August 31, 2007. He has been in prison there since 2005, when he was arrested on suspicions of smuggling weapons and possession of firearms.

Matanic spent eight months in Bulgarian jail to be later released due to lack of evidence.
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