Montenegro’s development and tourism minister resigned Friday after a video emerged appearing to show inspectors from his ministry taking a bribe from a businessman, the first time a top official has quit over corruption.
In the video, broadcast by the local TV channel Vijesti, the inspectors are heard demanding a kickback from a man who wants to continue construction of a building in the resort town of Budva even though his permit has expired.
When one of the inspectors asks, “Did you bring it?”, the man responds that he only has “5,000” euros, even though the total amount they had requested was “20,000”.
Later one of the inspectors is heard saying: “Give me that under the table, put the envelope away”.
Minister Pavle Radulovic, in office since 2016, announced he would resign over the incident at a press conference.
“I have failed to eradicate this kind of behaviour,” he said.
He said disciplinary proceedings were already underway before the video was leaked, but that no one had been punished.
“I initiated a new procedure against the two men this morning and I hope it will be more successful than the previous one,” Radulovic said, adding that the inspectors have been suspended.
Corruption and organised crime are two of the most pressing issues plaguing the tiny Adriatic country, which aspires to become a member of the European Union.
In April, a top Montenegrin tycoon, Dusko Knezevic, accused the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of widespread racketeering.
After a video clip from 2016 surfaced appearing to show him hand then-mayor of Podgorica an envelope of cash, Knezevic told media he had been giving secret payments to the ruling party for years in order to do business.
Chairman of the Atlas Group, Knezevic is himself wanted for alleged fraud, money laundering and tax evasion and is believed to be currently based in the United Kingdom.
Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic has dismissed his allegations against the ruling party and described the businessman as a “fugitive” who is trying to evade justice by “making noise.”