July 2021 may enter the history of the new justice system, reformed in Albania as the beginning of its functioning and the punishment of the “untouchables” and the corrupt at high levels.
In the first 10 days of July, the Special Anti-Corruption Structure (SPAK), the horse of the fight against corruption and high-level organized crime in Albania, arrested 18 officials and former officials accused of corruption through tenders and abuse of office. ”
The Court against Corruption and Organized Crime on Monday (12.07) decided on the arrest of nine officials of the Ministry of Interior, arrested last weekend (10.07) by SPAK for “violation of equality” in the tender for the purchase and distribution of uniforms of the State Police and “favoring the company” that won this tender with a value of about 28 million dollars. According to official data, the detainees committed illegal acts such as changing the price and quantity of police uniforms, from which they received an abusive benefit of 10 million dollars.
One week ago, Fatos Tushe, the Socialist Mayor of Lushnja, and eight other officials of this municipality, were arrested by the SPAK with the same accusation: “violation of equality in the tender” accompanied by accusations of “abuse duty, misappropriation of public funds, falsification of documents ”in a tender of about 24 million dollars for the rehabilitation of a water supply system.
The head of the SPAK, Arben Kraja, said in a public statement that “this is just the beginning” meaning the continuation of the crackdown on high-level corruption. His statement came after the US considered corruption a “violation of national security against the US, its friends and allies, including Albania”.
The history of the two tenders, which led to the imprisonment of officials in the central and local government, scans the roots and factors that flourished high-level corruption in Albania.
What produces corruption in Albania?
In the Transparency International Global Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, Albania ranks 104th out of 180 countries. While in the Global Index 2020, “World Justice Project”, for the rule of law is ranked 78th out of 128 countries in the world, with a decrease of 4 positions compared to 2019 and in 100th place for the fight against corruption .
Prof. Afrim Krasniqi, head of the Tirana-based Institute for Political Studies, tells DW that the “fertile ground” for corruption is the lack of an anti-corruption prevention and control system.
“Senior officials, so far, have remained untouchable. The vertical system of corruption at high levels in Tirana serves as a reference model at both local and administrative levels. “We have political corruption and the replacement of the merit system with that of the political clientele,” Krasniqi told DW.
He argues that in both the Democratic Party (DP) and the Socialist Party (SP), which won a third term in office, an abusive system of political and clientelist appointments has functioned, rather than a system of professional appointments. merit base. The system of political and clientelist appointments extends from the directors of cadastres, customs, postal services and other state entities to middle public administration officials, which has also created the layer of power-related businessmen.
“There are strong and deep corrupt and criminal links between politics, senior state officials and informal groups often with criminal sources,” Krasniqi told DW.
Great expectations from the new justice
The arrest of the 18 officials shows the new justice efforts to sever these ties and the public expectations that this will happen are high. Until the new justice punishes the so-called “big fish” it remains to gain public trust in it.
“Albania has had and still has ministers, deputies and much higher officials who have committed corrupt acts and legal violations many times greater than the criminal offense of the mayor of Lushnja or officials in the Ministry of Interior, newly arrested. SPAK has so far not yet gone to the VIP files, which are the main basis of corruption. It is not low-level officials and officials who have decision-making power. They order and sign decisions made by senior political and administrative chiefs. The day when SPAK investigates and deals with the high levels that run the corrupt system in customs, cadastre, energy, privatization or the adoption of commissioned legal acts, etc., will be the first day of restoring public confidence in the new justice , ”Says for DW prof. Afrim Krasniqi.
The new justice – the force for the end of impunity
The hopes for the new justice are great. The arrest of 18 officials is seen as a signal that responds to these hopes and the need to end legal impunity for the corrupt “untouchables” of yesterday and today.
I believe that the “last hour” of legal punishment has already arrived. The arrests, the reopening of the Gerdec tragedy dossier and other dossiers that have shaken Albanian society in the last 30 years, have lit the light of hope and are awakening confidence in closing the “era of transition with impunity,” Aleksandër Çipa told DW.
He emphasizes that “crimes left unpunished in the periods of kleptocratic governments are being investigated and their files are being re-examined.”
“We now have a new generation of lawyers, investigators, prosecutors and judges who are part of the new justice system. The primary motivating factor is the clues and the active support of the international factor. Impunity has already been set for powerful, heavy and large gates that are closing in on them actors and protagonists of the corruption accumulated in the last three decades. I predict that in the autumn of this year, in Albania we will have sensational processes against important representatives of past governments and the current government and the most talked about affairs in the life and public voice of the society “says for DW Aleksandër Çipa.
Edlira Gjoni, an independent analyst, director of the Center for Public Impact, thinks that “the arrests will continue, it will not be just a summer rain. “There are signs that the strong are coming to an end, corrupt at high levels.”
But for this the new justice must act energetically and decisively.
“There are strong accusations of the parties for theft of treasury, votes, tenders with billions for roads, construction, concessions, ports and airports. Behind them do not stand directors, nor mayors. The public demands huge penalties and the US has its share of raising expectations, with the non-grata announcement of key policy names. But, after the trip was blocked, nothing happened to them. Albanians demand that the promises of SPAK, the expectations raised by the US State Department for justice with concrete names, become a reality. With big names of the majority and the opposition. ” says for DW Edlira Gjoni.
The public, eager for justice and blocking the development of corruption, gives its strong support to justice. According to a poll by the Institute for Research and Development Alternatives, 91% of Albanians support the new justice system.
“Albania is entering a new phase when the need for justice and anti-corruption acts has broad public support. Until now, the new justice is functioning as a pressure and warning for corrupt officials, with the message that the time of impunity can end “, says for DW prof. Afrim Krasniqi.