Anton Stanaj, a Montenegrin business owner and convicted cigarette-smuggling kingpin, was killed Friday in Sudan, allegedly murdered in his hotel room.
After serving three-and-a-half years in prison in Serbia for his role as the head of a group of international cigarette smuggleres, Stanaj was free on an usnusual agreement after posting "bail" of €400,000 that granted him the ability to travel before serving the remainder of his 6-year sentence.
According to court records, Stanaj ran a cigarette smuggling group using the business structure and connections of his family company, Roksped, which is the exclusive importer of cigarettes for Montenegro.
The company, owned by Anton's father, Rocco Stanaj, imported cigarettes from 2004 to 2007 into Montenegro via offshore companies registered in Cyprus and in Delaware, and then sold those cigarettes tax-free in Montenegro.
Records show that the imported cigarettes were also smuggled into Serbia, and from there to Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and other countries in the European Union.
The indictment by the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime in Serbia alleges that in addition to the original smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes, the company also sold cigarettes it purchased from other manufacturers in Dubai, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, China and Serbia.
Despite Anton Stanaj being arrested and tried for smuggling cigarettes, the Roksped company was never investigated for its role in the scam. Instead, the company was involved in the privatization of agricultural companies and wineries in Serbia.
Even Japan Tobacco International (JTI), one of the largest international cigarette companies, did not want to terminate its relationship with Roksped despite the fact that two JTI brands, Winston and Monte Carlo, were among those Stanaj smuggled. The company has so far remained the exclusive distributor for JTI in Montenegro.
Former minister in Stanaj Network
Serbian authorities never launched an investigation into the Stanaj family's financial operations in Serbia, and therefore never determined where the company invested its cigarette smuggling proceeds.
However, research by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Serbia (CINS) and the regional network of journalists at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that Anton Stanaj had business contacts in high places. He worked not only with players in the criminal world, but also with well-known Serbian businessmen like Bogdan Rodic, and even with the former Minister of Energy from Djindjic's government, Goran Novakovic.
Anton Stanaj's closest collaborator, however, was his friend Zoran Copic, who was indicted in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for several crimes including laundering money for fugitive drug boss Darko Saric.