Thursday, February 15, 2018
US Bans Albanian Former General Prosecutor
Adriatik Llalla on Wednesday became the first known Albanian official to be banned from entering the US for suspected involvement in 'significant corruption'.
Gjergj Erebara BIRN Tirana
The US State Department on Wednesday announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had "designated" Adriatik Llalla, 49, and his family as corrupt foreign officials, thereby banning Llalla from entering the country.
Llalla was General Prosecutor in Albania from 2012 to 2017 and last year the US Ambassador to Tirana, Donald Lu, accused him of being an "enemy of the Justice Reform" – the flagship reform program that Albania is implementing, aiming to clean up the notoriously corrupt justice system.
Llalla had announced his resignation from the justice system in a letter to President Ilir Meta, hoping to thereby avoid scrutiny under the Vetting Process, an extraordinary commission that will investigate the assets of justice system members and fire them it they cannot justify their wealth.
Under Albanian law, former general prosecutors are entitled to be appointed as judges in an Appeal Court after their mandates end. Llalla had decided to not use this right, apparently hoping to avoid vetting.
"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is publicly designating former Albanian Prosecutor General (Mr) Adriatik Llalla under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act due to his involvement in significant corruption," the US press release reads.
"In cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States," it adds.
In February 2017, US Ambassador Lu denounced Llalla for attempting to block the justice reform process.
A day later, Llalla acknowledged that the embassy had cancelled his diplomatic visa and that of his wife, and accused Lu of blackmailing him, using "Sorosian techniques".
He was referring to the US billionaire and philantropist George Soros whose liberal NGOs, backed by the Soros Foundation have long been a target of attacks across the Balkans.
Nationalists and right-wing politicians are deeply suspicious of their politically and socially liberal agenda and their focus on human rights.
Several other Albanian prosecutors have also acknowledged then that their US visas have been cancelled. However, the US embassy has not published a list of those who have been sanctioned due to privacy protection.
The publication of the decision about Llalla's designation as corrupt official appears to mark a turning point, therefore.
"The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their family members. In addition to the designation of Llalla, the Secretary is also publicly designating Llalla’s spouse, Ardjana Llalla, his daughter, Eni Llalla, and his other, non-US citizen child," the Departament of State noted.
Several judges have resigned from their positions in the last two years in Albania, apparently hoping to avoid vetting process.