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U.S. Executive Testifies In Montenegro Trial Of Attempted Coup Suspects

Key witness Aleksandar Sindjelic arrives at the Podgorica court.
Key witness Aleksandar Sindjelic arrives at the Podgorica court.

Brian Scott, the chief executive officer of a U.S. risk-management company, has testified in the trial of suspects in an attempted state coup in Montenegro.

Scott told the court on June 5 that his company turned down a business proposal to provide assistance to an opposition political party in Montenegro in 2016.

Scott, who is a former CIA official, testified via video link. He explained that Joseph Assad, a former CIA operative, made the request to provide assistance to the Democratic Front political party in Montenegro on protective security and evacuation planning.

Scott said that when his company consulted with advisers on the Montenegro situation, he was informed that there were reports of a connection between the Democratic Front (DF) and Russian intelligence officers.

Because of that reported association, he said he told Assad that his company, Strategic Risk Management, was not able to participate in any work in Montenegro.

"I advised him to take care, because there are allegations that Russian intelligence is somehow involved with DF. And I advised him that protective countersecurity and evacuation planning was difficult without the support of host-nation police services," Scott said.

Scott was questioned by the FBI in December 2016 about the matter, and the FBI sent its report to the Montenegrin Special State Prosecutor’s Office.

Although the core content of the FBI report regarding communication with Assad on Montenegro was close to his court testimony, Scott said that the FBI document was a poor and inaccurate representation of his three conversations with the FBI agent.

Scott said he was surprised that some names of his associates were published in that report, and he said it contained mistakes about his company.

The 14 suspects in the so-called "Trial of the Century" in Montenegro are citizens of Russia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

Aleksandar Sindjelic, a key witness in the trial, identified a purported Russian secret-service agent -- Eduard Shishmakov, alias Shirokov -- as a key organizer and financier of the attempted coup in October 2016.

Authorities in Montenegro say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian government to halt Montenegro's bid to join NATO.

The Kremlin has denied claims that "Russian state bodies" were involved in the alleged plot.

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