Montegrin yacht racing star arrested for cocaine smuggling

Milos Radjonic

 TRIESTE – Italian police have arrested a Montenegrin racing yacht skipper; Milos Radonjic, who is wanted on a U.S. warrant issued on charges of heading an international drug trafficking gang smuggling thousands of kilos of cocaine into Europe from Ecuador and Colombia, police said Tuesday.

 Radonjic, 33, from Kotor, who won several prestigious yacht races in the past, was nabbed Oct. 6 in Trieste after he arrived in the Italian port aboard his 24 M regatta yacht, the Maxi Jena, ready to take part in the 55th edition of the Barcolana race held Oct. 8, a contest he was among the favourites to win, the police, quoted by Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, said.

 His arrest climaxed an investigation that lasted years leading to the international warrant for him issued Sept. 15 in New York on charges of drug trafficking and recycling. The Jena crew raced without their skipper and placed fourth, only to be disqualified for having turned on their engine.

   The Montenegrin sailor, nicknamed the "priate of the unknown" in the underworld,  was transferred from Trieste to a maximum security prison at Tolmezzo in Udine. Under interrogation he claimed that he had been mistaken for someone else with the same name, but police used fingerprint files and passport controls as well as phone records to determine he was the man sought under the warrant.

 Radonjic is accused of heading the Kavac organised crime clan that attempted to smuggle into Europe 2.6 tonnes of cocaine ferried aboard a Maltese-flagged freighter by fast launches from Ecuador and the Colombian coast.

 The Montenegrin skipper survived four assassination attempts by gunmen of the rival Skaljari clan in 2016 though he was seriously wounded. He was arrested previously in Croatia and subsequently extradited to Montenegro but was subsequently released in 2020 after serving a four month prison term for illegal possession of firearms.

 Lawyers for the yachtsman said they will contest his extradition to the United States on the ground that U.S. authorities have declined to extradite to Italy from America Italian suspects such as Chico Forti, an Italian television producer arrested for murder in 1998, violating the spirit of extradition accords.