Albania’s Conflicts of Interest Chief Faces Abuse Probe

The General Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to BIRN that it has launched an investigation into Shkelqim Ganaj, chairman of Albania’s High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest, on suspicion of abuse of power.

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Officers of the judicial police, equipped with a seizure warrant issued by the Prosecution of Tirana, went to the HIDAACI on Monday to seize all the assets files submitted by senior officials.

Ganaj, head of the inspectorate, was not available for the comment on Wednesday when aked by BIRN about the probe.

The Task Force Group of the Tirana Prosecution said it suspected abuse of power because, over a period of three years, Ganaj had reported no conflicts of interest on the part of any senior officials.

Earlier, the Tirana Prosecution on its own initiative registered a criminal proceeding reflecting its suspicion that HIDAACI had deliberately failed to investigate conflicts of interest.

“The criminal proceeding was launched mainly because there were indications and publicly known facts of involvement of senior officials in conflict of interest, which have not been investigated and reported by HIDAACI,” Albi Serani, spokesman of the General Prosecutor’s Office, told BIRN.

Among these known cases where senior officials were accused of conflicts of interest over their assets, Serani mentioned the files of MP Rakip Suli, Valentina Leksaj and that of former MP Koco Kokedhima.

“In order to investigate whether we have other similar cases, the prosecution has decided to seize all the files of senior officials from February 2014,” Serani said.

The investigation against the chairman of the High Inspectorate comes at a time when the institution is involved in reviewing all the assets declarations of judges and prosecutors.

This is part of the vetting process expected to follow adoption of the law “on the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors” in Albania.

This law, which the opposition Democratic Party appealed against in the Constitutional Court, is also opposed by the Union of Judges and by part of the prosecutors.

Relations between the Prosecutor’s Office and HIDAACI have been tense for some time, with both sides accusing each other of closing the files on senior officials.

According to an investigation published earlier by BIRN, HIDAACI handed over 158 files of senior and middle level officials to the Albanian prosecution during 2014-2015.

They include the files of judges, MPs, diplomats, former ministers, local mayors or people who work in taxes or customs – two public administration sectors with a high level of corruption.

In its charges, HIDAACI alleged that various officials made false declarations in the absence of legitimate financial resources to justify their declared wealth.

But, according to HIDAACI, the Prosecutor’s Office dismissed half of all the cases the Inspectorate has reported in the recent years, some 70 charges in all.

In a few cases, the Prosecutor Office indicted and sent for trial officials accused of hiding their wealth, mainly middle-level officials.

Balkan Insight

10 November 2016

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