Ukrainian policemen involved in attempted murder of Montenegrin gangster



Montenegrin crime boss Radoje Zvicer was running back to his Kiev apartment with his children to escape the spring rains of last year when gunshots rang out.

Zvicer, who heads the Kavač cocaine trafficker clan in Montenegro, barely survived the attack, receiving five bullets in his arms and chest. Her dog and her three children escaped unharmed.

The family may owe their lives to the quick reaction of Zvicer’s wife, Tamara, who was nearby and carried a pistol. She shot the hitmen and they ran to their getaway vehicle, a Smart car, and sped off before setting the vehicle on fire and fleeing Kiev.

A special police unit caught up with the gunmen outside the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa the next day, May 27, 2020, as they were on their way to the border with Moldova. . Ukrainian national police said they had arrested four men, but footage showed five people being detained.

Journalists from Ukraine’s OCCRP member center Slidstvo tracked down the elusive fifth man to Kiev, where they discovered he was a policeman. Court records show that he was actually one of three officers – including the city’s deputy chief of police – who helped Zvicer’s would-be killers get into Kiev and then escape after the coup. .

They keep their jobs and have escaped accusations of their role in the attack. All declined to comment on this story.

Relying on court records, police documents and interviews, Slidstvo and Serbian OCCRP member center KRIK reconstructed the inside story of the assassination attempt, which was allegedly ordered by the Serbian boss. of a band of thieves known as the “Pink Panthers,” and executed by contract killers from the Balkans.

The attack on Zvicer was the latest round in a bloody feud between Montenegrin criminal gangs Kavač and Škaljari that left at least 50 dead in just a few years. A previous investigation by OCCRP and its member centers uncovered a trail of bodies stretching across Europe, from Greece to the Netherlands.

“The attempted assassination of Radoje Zvicer in Ukraine is just a continuation of the conflict between the Kavač and Škaljari clans, which has claimed many lives both in Montenegro and in European countries,” said Aleksandar Bošković, a Montenegrin policeman who heads the General Crime Suppression Department, Slidstvo said in a documentary on the murder case.

The two criminal clans are from Kotor, on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro. They were once part of the same drug smuggling gang from South America, but broke up in 2014 after a cocaine deal went sour. This created a violent rift which has since deepened – and attracted other Serbian and Montenegrin criminal groups.

As the cocaine war raged, Kavač’s crime boss Zvicer moved his family from Montenegro to Kiev in 2019. But a year later, violence caught up with him.

“Nothing to say”

The trial of the men accused of attempting to kill Zvicer – Serbs Petar Jovanović and Milan Branković, and Montenegrins Emil Tuzović and Stefan Djukić – began in Kiev in May.

All four have a criminal past. Branković’s rap sheet includes a conviction for attempted murder, while Jovanović, who has previously been convicted of bank robbery, is also suspected of killing an associate of the Kavač clan in Belgrade in January 2020.

Police said the two Montenegrins were affiliated with the Škaljari clan. Montenegrin police officer Aleksandar Bošković said Tuzović had a criminal history, while Djukić faced charges for killing a man in Montenegro in 2019.

It is unclear exactly what Deputy Kyiv Police Chief Yevhen Deidei knew when he agreed to help them. The 33-year-old officer – who is also a former lawmaker and a veteran of the war in eastern Ukraine – admitted to investigators he had arranged for the suspects to be transported. But he said he had no idea what their mission was.

Deidei told investigators he helped the four men get to Kiev because a Polish friend asked him to. The friend, whose name he gave only as Maček, apparently asked for his help as public transport had been cut off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deidei did not explain why Maček needed to bring these men to Kiev, but said he asked two of his officers, Rostislav Chernobrovyi and Semen Hordienko, to pick them up.

“After Hordienko and Chernobrovyi brought Maček’s knowledge to Kiev, Semen [Hordienko] called me and told me that they had responded to my request, ”Deidei told investigators.

Deidei gave no further information about Maček, and he denied any knowledge of the plan to kill Zvicer. But details journalists obtained show other links between him and the assassination attempt.

On the one hand, a law enforcement document shows that he received a WhatsApp message about eight months earlier from another friend, asking him to check if the Zvicer family were in Ukraine.

Journalists also traced the license plate of the Toyota Sequoia SUV that police said Gordienko and Chernobrovyi used to transport three of the suspected killers to and from Kiev. The owner of the vehicle turned out to be an acquaintance of Deidei, who sold it a few months after the attempted coup.

After illegally crossing Ukraine’s Chernivtsi region, Jovanović, Branković and Tuzović were first encountered by two men in a gray SUV, who then told investigators that Deidei had given them instructions on where and when where to meet the alleged contract killers. The two drivers transported the suspects a short distance to meet Chernobrovyi and Hordienko, who were waiting for them in the Toyota Sequoia to take them on the 500-kilometer journey to Kiev.

The fourth member of the alleged squad, Djukić, was waiting for them in Kiev, having already arrived in Ukraine two months earlier with a false passport from North Macedonia.

Two of the men went to an apartment rented to them in the same complex as Zvicer’s family, while the other two appear to have stayed in a separate apartment in another part of town. Once in Kiev, they observed their target and obtained weapons and the Smart car, which police suspect was bought by a stranger using a stolen passport.

Two weeks later, they allegedly attempted to assassinate Kavač’s boss, shooting him five times in the middle of the day in a Kiev suburb, as his children dispersed.

After the potential killers escaped, they hastily attempted to destroy the evidence by burning the Smart car. Footage collected by police shows one of the men fleeing the car with his clothes on fire after spilling petrol on himself.

Chernobrovyi and Hordienko then picked up the team in the Toyota Sequoia and drove them to the outskirts of Odessa, where they were arrested by police.

Chernobrovyi and Hordienko declined to comment for this story. But journalists managed to reach Chernobrovyi right after the arrests last year. He denied that it was him in the photos of the police detained with the suspects in Odessa.

During the investigation, however, Hordienko told police that Deidei gave him and Chernobrovyi times and places to pick up the suspects and get them in and out of Kiev.

Deidei declined to comment when questioned by reporters outside the Kiev police headquarters. “I have nothing to say,” he said, walking past them and getting into a vehicle.

“Pink panthers”

Documents from an investigation by Serbian prosecutors indicate that the attack on Zvicer was ordered by a man named Milan Ljepoja from NiÅ¡, a town in southern Serbia. Ljepoja led a group of burglars known as the “Pink Panthers”, who appeared to be aligned with the Å kaljari, who are rivals of Zvicer’s Kavač clan.

Ljepoja was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2010 by a Liechtenstein court after his Pink Panthers were caught stealing more than one million Swiss francs worth of jewelry. But he was sent home to Serbia in 2013 to serve the remainder of his term.

Ljepoja went missing late last year and the Serbian Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office believes he was murdered by another gangster, Veljko Belivuk, although his body has not been found.

In their investigation into crimes allegedly committed by Ljepoja’s group, Serbian police tapped the phones of members of the criminal organization led by Belivuk, an ally of Kavač. The KRIK obtained the transcripts of the wiretaps, which include conversations suggesting that Ljepoja ordered Zvicer’s murder.

In a recording, Belivuk de NiÅ¡ associate Marko Andrić said that one of Ljepoja’s men told him that the Pink Panther boss, also known as “Mance”, had sent someone to Kiev. to kill Zvicer.

“I’m sorry for what he did to Zvicer over there, after Mance got it all organized,” Andrić said, according to a wiretap transcript.

As for Zvicer himself, Ukrainian authorities want him to testify against the men who allegedly tried to kill him, while Serbia and Montenegro issued arrest warrants against him earlier this year.

But the crime boss is missing.


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