A British-Israeli political consultant is suspected of creating a criminal organisation in an attempt to topple the Montenegrin government in a 2016 coup plot, according to prosecutors in Montenegro.
In a statement on Wednesday State Prosecutor Sasa Cadenovic said that Aron Shaviv was involved in planning the overthrow of the government along with former CIA operative Joseph Assad and eight other foreigners.
Shaviv was the chief consultant to the opposition Democratic Front (DF) in the run up to the October 2016 parliamentary elections. He had been producing satirical commercials on behalf of the pro-Russian, anti-NATO party, according to reporting in the Guardian.
Assad had served as a counter-terrorism specialist in the CIA, before leaving the agency to set up a private security company.
Shaviv says he contracted Assad’s firm to provide counter-surveillance and plan a possible evacuation after he reported being harassed by Montenegrin security forces due to his work with the opposition.
However, the Montenegrin prosecution claims that the real purpose of hiring Assad was to help extract the coup plotters after election day.
Assad was briefly detained for interrogation in August 2018. Since then, the Montenegrin authorities say they have obtained evidence indicating that Shaviv and Assad actively participated in the plot for the coup.
Two Russian intelligence officers were sentenced in absentia to 12 and 15 years in prison by the Montenegrin Supreme Court in May for organising the plot.
Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, the leaders of Democratic Front, received sentences of five years’ imprisonment each, while a retired Serbian police officer was sentenced to eight-years.
Others involved in the process, Serb and Montenegrin citizens, were given sentences of between one and seven years.
According to prosecutors, the conspirators had planned to recruit a small group of Serbian nationalists, who were to disguise themselves as Montenegrin police and assassinate then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and open fire on crowds at the national parliament.
The apparent aim of the coup attempt was to put an end to Montenegro’s NATO accession talks by toppling the pro-Western government and replacing it with the pro-Russian opposition.
However, just hours before the plan was due to be carried out, Montenegrin police, operating from a tip-off by one of the alleged plotters, arrested the suspects.
The Russian government has denied any involvement in the attempted coup, as has the opposition DF party who say it was concocted as a false flag by the government to ensure victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Joseph Assad has also denied the allegations.