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Montenegro police probe who built underground tunnel leading to court depot holding drugs, and why

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Police in Montenegro said Tuesday they have launched an investigation after an underground tunnel was discovered linking an apartment building with a nearby court depot holding seized drugs and other crime evidence, officials said Tuesday.

The discovery was made on Monday at the Higher Court in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, which handles various important crime cases, said Interior Minister Filip Adzic.

It remains unclear why the tunnel was dug, officials said, adding that nothing appeared to have been taken away. The court depot contains evidence in current cases but also large amounts of confiscated drugs, officials said.

“This was a well-planned and organized action, which has been prepared for months and which resembles action movies,” said Adzic, adding that the apartment from where the underground tunnel started was leased a few months ago.

Montenegro, a small NATO member state on the Adriatic Sea, has pledged to fight crime and corruption as it seeks to join the European Union. It has been considered one of the main routes for drug smuggling into Western Europe.

Photos from the scene published by state RTCG television showed a huge hole in the wall behind what appear to be depot shelves holding case files.

Some media reports made reference to movie-style prison escapes, including that of former drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who escaped from a maximum-security Mexican prison in 2015 through a tunnel from his cell.

The tunnel hole in the Montenegrin court building was found in a “well-hidden” place inside the depot, said the court President Boris Savic. The perpetrators dug through the building’s foundations for months to get in, he said.

“We found disturbed things inside the depot but almost nothing is missing,” Savic said.

In 2022, the former head of Montenegro’s top court, Vesna Medenica, was arrested on charges of helping to cover up her son’s drug-smuggling operation.

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