Thursday, December 29, 2016

Albania Officials Face Axe Over Hidden Crime Pasts

Hundreds of Albanian officials await decisions on whether they will be fired as a result of criminal background checks undertaken in relation to a new law, BIRN has learned.

Fatjona Mejdini

Albania's Central Electoral Commission, the body tasked with taking final decisions on whether to dismiss elected officials with a criminal past, is to decide in the first week of 2017 on whether two MPs and a mayor will be banned from public office.

Dashamir Tahiri, an MP from the opposition Democratic Party, Shkelqim Selami an MP from the junior government party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, and Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Roshi are accused of failing to declare criminal convictions received years before taking office.

After the prosecutor’s office on December 20 said the three men had failed to declare their backgrounds properly, the Central Electoral Commission held a session with MP Selimi and with the lawyers of Tahiri and Roshi on Tuesday.

The state prosecution said Italian police had accused Tahiri of crimes related to money forging in 1995 while a court in Ravenna, Italy, had convicted him of using a falsified driving license in 2009.

Selimi was accused of not declaring an arrest warrant issued against him by a court in Brindisi, Italy, on suspicion that he was part of an organized criminal group involved in human trafficking.

The Mayor of Kavaja, according to prosecutors, failed to declare a conviction for gang rape in 1995 in Italy and also did not declare the use of different names in Switzerland.

The two MPs on Tuesday denied accusations of not reporting past crime records. Roshi's lawyer, Theodhori Sollaku, argued that the Italian authorities had not delivered any proof of the charges against Roshi.

"Roshi is accused of a crime 24 years ago when he was 16 years old. But we don't have any confirmation by foreign authorities about this," Sollaku said.

He also stated that Swiss authorities denied confirmation of Roshi’s alleged use of other names while in the Alpine country.

Albania's parliament in December 2015 passed a law banning all convicted criminals from public office with strong cross-party support.

Since the country's officials submitted forms about their pasts in February, a source from the Prosecutor's Office told BIRN on Tuesday that 500 possible cases had been passed to the prosecution for further verification.

"Until now we have made a decision on 170 cases, while verification is continuing for 330 other ones," the source from the prosecution told BIRN.

Referring to these 170 cases, the prosecutors reportedly considered that 50 of the officials cannot continue to hold their posts since their past record violates the requirements of the new law.

Additionally, the prosecutor’s office has found that in another 40 cases state officials had hidden their past crime records.

"Prosecutors have decided on further criminal proceedings against 40 officials for falsifying their forms," the same source told BIRN.

According to the prosecution, "the overwhelming majority of cases came from the department of public administration”, while other officials found in breach of the law come from institutions like the Central Electoral Commission, President’s office, Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

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