Friday, February 16, 2018
U.S. Bars Former Top Albanian Prosecutor, Alleging Corruption
By Samuel Rubenfeld
Feb 16, 2018 11:12 am ET
The Wall Street Journal
Demonstrators shuffle with riot police during a protest against a vote to appoint a temporary prosecutor general, which they consider to be unconstitutional, in Tirana, Albania, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.
Demonstrators shuffle with riot police during a protest against a vote to appoint a temporary prosecutor general, which they consider to be unconstitutional, in Tirana, Albania, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. PHOTO: AP PHOTO/HEKTOR PUSTINA
The U.S. State Department barred a former Albanian prosecutor general from the U.S., alleging he was involved in significant corruption.
Adriatik Llalla, his wife and two children were blocked from entering the U.S. under a 2017 law authorizing the State Department to impose visa bans on government officials found to be “involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights.”
The law authorizes the ban on family members of those officials. Mr. Llalla served as the prosecutor general of Albania from December 2012 to December 2017.
He denied any corruption on Thursday in an email responding to written questions, saying he was never put under investigation by Albanian authorities. The U.S. ban on him and his family is a product of a feud with Donald Lu, the U.S. ambassador in Tirana, he said.
“I am sure that this is a decision taken on the misinformation given on my regard from Ambassador Lu to the State Department,” he said.
The U.S. announcement was made in a brief statement posted Wednesday evening; it didn’t specify the acts of corruption for which he is accused. A State Department spokeswoman said Friday in an email the department “has credible information that Mr. Llalla was involved in significant corruption during his tenure” in office. She declined further comment.
Messrs. Llalla and Lu have faced off over the issue of judicial reform, a key concern amid Albania’s efforts to join the European Union. The reform passed in 2016 but its implementation has been rocky, with smoke bombs set off in parliament following a vote to name an interim successor to Mr. Llalla.
Mr. Lu had accused Mr. Llallla in early 2017 of speaking out against the reform; and Mr. Llalla called the comments an attempt to manipulate public opinion. The feud escalated: The U.S. embassy at the time revoked the travel visas of several Albanian judges and prosecutors without releasing names, referencing “the flagrant abuse of an official visa” by a senior prosecutor and his spouse.
Mr. Llalla said he and his wife’s visas were canceled last year because she traveled to the U.S. on a diplomatic passport due to health problems. She was pregnant at the time of the travel, he said, and his wife gave birth while in the U.S. Mr. Lllalla said he was told afterward by Mr. Lu that officials can’t use diplomatic visas for private visits.
Mr. Llalla said he doesn’t know what evidence of corruption the U.S. has on him, but he blamed Mr. Lu for the issue, saying Mr. Lu “has been misinforming and misinforming them on purpose.”
“He has been insulting me, my family and also all the body of judges and prosecutors, treating us as criminals, denigrating us publicly and personally,” said Mr. Llalla.
Write to Samuel Rubenfeld at Samuel.Rubenfeld@wsj.com. Follow him on Twitter at @srubenfeld.