“Everyone will say: ‘He got what he deserved’. Live as you like and as you love while you can!” – this is the message that Jovan Vukotic – the 42-year-old leader of one of the most dangerous criminal groups in all of Europe – the Montenegrin drug clan Shkalyari, left for himself on his personal Facebook profile.
For him, that “while you can” came last Friday, September 9, in Istanbul in the form of a biker with a gun.
Thus, the Montenegrin gangster became another victim of the already eight-year war of the clans from the picturesque Bay of Kotor.
“They beheaded the Shkalyari clan,” wrote local media in Serbia and Montenegro, and according to reports there, Vukotic was in his car with his wife and daughter when the assailant’s motorcycle passed him, opening fire.
The Montenegrin gangster had been hiding in Turkey since last September, after authorities in his homeland and in Serbia stepped up the crackdown on the Bay of Kotor – Shkalyari crime clans and their local enemies, the Kavach.
The feud itself dates back to late 2014. Both groups are named after the villages where most of their core members hail from.
At first, they work together in a joint operation to smuggle cocaine from South America into Europe. Together, the two clans developed a large-scale logistics network of bases in Europe and Latin America, allowing them to create an impressive and rapidly growing organization that amassed influence and money.
However, this period of growth continued until an incident in December 2014, when a shipment of 200 kg of cocaine from Colombia disappeared from a warehouse in Valencia. This incident sows discord between the representatives of the two clans, who begin to suspect each other of the failed operation.
Mistrust and suspicions are the first step, and after that, the way opens to a large-scale underground war that shook both Montenegro and Serbia, and it continues to this day. The first victim to fall in this war was Goran Radoman, and after his murder in Belgrade in February 2015, the group finally split into two clans that entered into a bloody confrontation.
Since then, the two groups have been competing to see who will remove more “figures” of the enemy, and so far this feud has caused the death of about 60 people, including at least five accidental victims who have nothing to do with this conflict.
This gangster war resulted in the breaking up of the entire criminal, underworld of Serbia and Montenegro, forcing all criminal groups and even some police officers and politicians to choose sides.
Vukotić himself was hiding in Turkey not only because the prosecutor’s office in Podgorica had charged him with having created a criminal organization in November and December 2020 for the liquidation of the leaders of the Kavač clan – Slobodan Kašcelan and Radoj Zvitser.
The other reason he wanted to be away from his homeland was precisely his enemies, who had tried twice to kill him up to this point, and at times only luck had saved him.
His brother Igor has been in hiding for several years for the same reasons, and in 2019 their father was killed outside the family home in Montenegro.
Jovan Vukotic himself has been the head of the Shkalyari clan since January 19, 2020, when his godfather and group leader Igor Dedovic was shot dead in a restaurant in Athens while having dinner with his family in an assassination attempt believed to have been orchestrated by the Kavachi.
It is believed that even before the death of the former leader of the clan, Vukotic worked for the murders of Zvitser and Kaschelan. According to the charges against him, he “ordered” the two through the encrypted Sky ECC application, offering a total of 4 million euros for their deaths.
He was also suspected of planning the murders of the leaders of the Kavače branch in Serbia, led by football hooligan Velko Belivuk and his right-hand man Marko Milković. The two are currently in custody in our western neighbor, charged with seven brutal murders, drug trafficking and other crimes, and the investigation into the attempted assassination against them has been suspended.
Paradoxically for Vukotic’s rich criminal career, until recently there was only one pending case against him in Montenegro – for tax evasion in the amount of 23 thousand euros.
Born in 1980 in Kotor, Jovan Vukotić completed his high school education as a professional ship technician, but there is no information that he ever practiced this occupation at all.
He told prosecutors in 2018 that he was officially unemployed but earned just under 2,000 euros a month renting out apartments owned by his family. Given how extensive his criminal record is, however, hardly anyone believes that this is his real occupation.
In 2002, Vukotic and a friend broke into a nightclub in Kotor and opened fire on the owners of the establishment, injuring one. A whole 12 years later – in 2014, there was a verdict against the two attackers. Vukotic was detained and imprisoned while trying to flee the country by car.
However, he spent only one year in prison and was released in 2015. The following year, a new sentence came against him – for possession of an illegal weapon, and this time the Montenegrin did not even go to prison.
Vukotic’s file also includes another charge from 2012 – for an assault at the Madame Coco nightclub in the Montenegrin coastal city of Tivat, but there the case never came to a conclusion. In 2017, Jovan was again charged with shooting in a nightclub, and together with him, his brother Igor and another member of the Shkalyari clan – Jovan Jovanovic – were brought before the court. And while they were both convicted of injuring a bar security guard, Vukotic was found not guilty.
In 2018, he was arrested in Turkey, with the official reasons for his detention never released, although it was later revealed that he was being investigated by Greek authorities for smuggling 135 kg of cocaine into the country.
Turkey deported him to Serbia, where he also holds citizenship and where he was convicted on separate charges of traveling on a false passport. Greek authorities asked a Serbian prosecutor to also take over the drug smuggling investigation, but Belgrade refused on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case.
Thus, Vukotic was sentenced to only 15 months in prison on the charge of the fake passport. While in Serbian prison, however, he narrowly escapes death as his enemies attempt to remove him as the new leader of the Skalars. What saves him is his own paranoia.
Every day, Vukotich asks his girlfriend to bring home-cooked food to him in prison so that he does not have to eat from the prisoners’ chair. And he turns out to be right to want this.
According to his own words, his enemies tried to poison him by putting cyanide in his food.
When they find out that Vukotic’s partner brings him the food, cooking it herself or picking it up from a restaurant along the way, they decide to get creative. Dressed in fake police uniforms, three men, believed to be from the Kavach clan, stop the taxi the young woman is riding in, hoping to sneak cyanide into the food.
What saves the mobster is that the food boxes are still empty and he gets away with death again.
A new attempt to kill him came just a few months later – in February 2020, when he was already the leader of the Skalari and was in custody in Montenegro. According to local media, the Kavacs planned to shoot him with a sniper as he appeared at the window of his detention cell.
Subsequently, two men were caught for the planned murder, with Radoj Zvitser believed to have tasked them with the task, even providing them with the plans for the investigative arrest.
In the end, however, Vukotic was once again released from custody without the authorities taking any more serious measures against him. Thus, when the charges against him were officially raised, he managed to escape from them in Turkey.
Although he successfully evades justice, he fails to hide from his enemies, who this time do not fail to eliminate him.