Tirana, 10 June 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
A minimum of 300 thousand Euros to be appointed a judge or prosecutor in Tirana and starting from 100 thousand Euros in other main Albanian cities.
This is the undeclared amount that prosecutors and judges of small cities must pay under the table to be included in the big “cake” of the big cities.
The group of high level experts who are drafting the Reform in Justice, has published the report “Analysis of the Justice System in Albania” based on the perception of citizens, but also testimonies of different affairs.
The report also includes all figures, which although they are not official, they are known by many people.
The report says that in order for prosecutors and judges to be transferred or appointed in important cities, they must pay a bribe of 100 thousand to 300 thousand Euros.
“The public opinion and observers of the sector, claim that several prosecutors and judges must pay in order to be appointed or transferred in important positions (lucrative based on the logic of corruption), such as for example in Tirana or other important cities. Given that the amounts claimed to be paid for these positions are enormous (100 thousand to 300 thousand Euros for several positions), it’s normal to believe that these officials will receive bribes in order to recover (and recover much more than the original amount) the amount”, the report states.
The system is sunk in corruption
If the initial figures only consist on “expenses” by judges and prosecutors, then this is only the start. On the contrary, this is the first step of the corruption system, because after this point, these officials start to “cash in” from the people.
The report drafted by foreign and domestic experts says that bribes are also taken by judicial officers, in exchange of money to destroy evidence. The decision not to take a case to trial, based on the report, is paid from 1 to 2 thousand Euros.
“Unofficial data circulating in the public and which are consistent in time, suggest that the cycle of corruption payments starts with judicial police, corrupt officers who accept payments to destroy proofs in the scene. Furthermore, corrupt prosecutors admit that the payment not to start a case or not to press charges (1000 up to 2000 Euros per standard case)”, the report underlines.
The report also mentions cases of changing the sentence, from jail to parole, where judges receive from 60 thousand to 80 thousand Euros. “We must stress the perception which relates to amounts that seem to be paid to change the security measure from jail to house arrest or parole (60.000-80.000).
Corrupt judges delay the start of the first session or condition the final decision (sometimes they refuse to fully reveal the ruling) expecting a bribe.
There’s even information that some judges play a double game, by receiving bribes from both sides. As if this was not enough, the bribe often doesn’t secure the desires result”, reads the report drafted by justice experts.
The intermediacy is done by third parties, says the report and the money are not demanded in a direct manner. “The middleman is often a relative of the judge or the prosecutor or a common friend or a lawyer. In any case, the middleman is a person who enjoys the trust of the judge or prosecutor thanks to old private relations or constant work contacts. In general, there’s information for a well defined structures of figures which are paid for different services. There are also talks of a predetermined division of the illicit gain between the judge/prosecutor and the middleman or people within the judge/prosecutor’s office, who seem to receive a commission for facilitating the transfer of the bribe from the corruptor to the corrupted”, the report states.
The transactions are careful: “In any case, parties who are part of the corruption transaction avoid phone calls. The payments are made in cash. The illicit gains are often sent abroad or are given to relatives of the judge/prosecutor or trusted third parties”.
All of these figures which indicate an enormous level of corruption, are partially admitted by judges. A poll that was conducted with judges indicated that 25% of judges admit that the justice system is corrupt, while 58% believe that the system was perceived as corrupt.
Meanwhile, half of the judges said that the justice system is not free of the political influence.
Rama: Reform in the justice system is vital
Prime Minister Edi Rama is critical with the justice system which he considers as a rotten system. He’s hoping for the situation to change, because “the reform in the justice system is vital for Albania”.
“For the first time in 25 years, we have a real worksite of drastic reforms in the rotten justice system, which without any doubt, is even more degraded than the energy system, which is now on the right tracks. With the same will we will also impose a turning point for the justice system, in order to remove the big cancer of corruption and of bad governance inherited from the past”, Mr. Rama vows.
Rama warned a new legal basis within a few months and expresses his conviction that the reform will take place. “We will manage to overthrow the degenerate system of justice which for many years has suffocated our state”, Rama says.
Bello: Who will punish the corrupt?
Former minister of Integration and State in socialist governments, Marko Bello says that the figures that have been published are bitter truths.
According to him, payments up to 300 thousand Euros for transfers end up in the pockets of the members of the Supreme Council of Justice. But how are these enormous amounts secured? Mr. Bello explains: “60-80 thousand Euros is the bribe that citizens pay to prosecutors and judges for the change of security measure from jail to house arrest or parole”.
Bello says that this entire system is a corrupt one. “It’s tragic that we have a corrupt system from the Supreme Council of Justice up to the bailiff who destroys evidence, from the prosecutor that suspends criminal cases to the judge who delays the process, expecting money from the parties in the trial”.
But what is the way out of this outrageous situation? Mr. Bello says that it must happen as the US ambassador suggested in the conference where the government also took part: “Some judges must be fired, some others must be put in jail”.
But, Mr. Bello is pessimistic that this will happen.
International community issues strong messages for the reform in the justice system
Foreign diplomats in Albania launch strong messages for the political class, while they call on the opposition to join in. Meanwhile, they demand for corrupt judges to be punished.
The US ambassador says that corrupt judges must be fired and also be put in jail, while the EU ambassador demands a deep and full reform.
Donald Lu, US ambassador: “In Albanian justice system, some people need to be fired for corruption and some people need to be put in jail. In addition to being accountable on corruption, Albanian judicial system must also independent to resist political pressure”. Also, the judicial system needs to prosecute more serious crimes.
Today many known organized crime figures and corrupt senior officials walk the streets of Tirana with no fear of prosecution. The European Committee on Efficiency of Judiciaries ranked Albania the lowest of all of the 25 countries surveyed in terms of serious crime prosecution. In a NATO country with aspirations of EU membership, political and criminal elites cannot operate with impunity”.
The US ambassador is optimistic about the reform that has started in the Albanian justice system. “We believe in the value of this reform. We pledge our support for this process. And corrupt judges and prosecutors should know that change is coming”.
From the European Union, Romana Vlahutin, EU ambassador to Albania, says that this reform must be comprehensive, deep and without compromise. “This reform has to be comprehensive, very deep and without compromise. It is not only about the system, or only about the people, it is both. Reform must ensure that it would be impossible to have corrupt judges in the judiciary, and to have a judiciary that would make it impossible for judges to be corrupt. It must ensure that it would be impossible for any prosecutor not to investigate all allegations of corruption, and for those who are corrupt to think that they will never be prosecuted. And it must ensure that, with no exception, all are equal before the law”.
Meanwhile, Florian Raunig, OSCE ambassador to Albania, says that speed is the crucial element of this reform: “The reform should proceed without delay or hesitation, but without haste. If we cut corners on the democratic process, there is a risk of making mistakes, of solving today’s problems while creating new problems for tomorrow”.
Mr. Raunig admits that the reform in the justice system is long and he’s hoping on a transformation of the system: “This document constitutes an achievement in the reform process, and is a serious first step. Let me express my hope that this multi-layered, multi-step process of justice reform will lead to a fundamentally renewed and trusted judicial system. A judicial system for a just society, in which all citizens – from the most vulnerable to the most powerful – are accountable for their actions and can receive justice”. /ibna/