This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al
By Plator Nesturi
The arrests and the discovery of a scheme for the appropriation of properties in Spille, Kavaja, was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the abuses taken place with state properties and the large scale corruption produced in the past 27 years. This was a scheme which includes local government officials who are supported by central government officials and in cooperation with third parties, they have managed to forge documents and benefit tens of hectares of land in coastal areas. The investigation which has been started by the prosecution of Kavaja on this issue is, nonetheless, the tip of the iceberg of the massive abuse, corruption and forgeries that have taken place with the help of officials in coastal areas or urban areas with high development potentials. In fact, minister Xhafaj seems to be intensifying efforts in this domain, where almost nothing has been done and where the people who are involved do not only include those who benefit through the forged papers, but also officials, judges and prosecutors. From Lezha, Xhafaj has threatened that the force of the law would be tough on these abuses, but it must be said that the entire coastline has been affected by this phenomenon, from Ksamil to Kavaja.
Considering the scale of this phenomenon, it seems impossible that justice will be made. Abusiveness with issue of properties is extreme and we may need a new inventory to understand the mess that we’re dealing with. But this requires so much energy. Therefore, we wonder: will these investigations or others which may start in some other areas, will only be used to cause a little intimidation and reduce the level of abusiveness starting from tomorrow or will there really be justice with people who have stolen or benefited through corruption? If this would only act as a mere example for propaganda in order to tell foreigners that we are simply trying, the virus of the evil would still remain there and we would be far from the justice that we want.
In fact, we have been criminalized as a society in all aspects and in every domain. This is the reason why Transparency International has ranked us eight positions lower in the corruption index. We’re equal to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a state which still needs to become a state.
Criminalization is not only caused by corruption, but also by the way economy is developed. A while ago, it was said that the construction sector during the year grew by 40%. But this growth was not being reflected in the banking system, as banks had not increased the level of crediting for this sector. So, the money had entered from another source, an unclear source like much of the money that is believed to have entered through the production of cannabis.
It’s not that we’re not aware of the problems, corruption or abusiveness accompanying the Albanian economy, but we need to find out how to remedy the situation. Can we be sure about the fact that this has started or will this only be the next breaking news? A while ago, our leaders declared that they would seek the help of FBI investigators to help with investigations and to offer credibility to the Albanian justice system. Everyone thought that this was a chance to stop crime, money laundering and galloping corruption. A chance to introduce some order in a country which was wandering in the paths of transition, where there isn’t even legal stability, because they change depending on the interests of the majorities that are created every time there are elections. This seems to be the only hope, because scrutiny by foreign experts will impose the application of the law on everyone and put a stop to the way society has been divided thus far, into untouchables and common people.
Senior officials seem to accept the fact that we are unable to do this transformation. Minister Xhafaj has been obliged to say that a part of police has collaborated with crime and traffic and for this, he promises drastic changes. But even for the remaining part, the Interior minister advices them not to use two standards: lenient with crime and tough with the citizens.
To give us a better picture of the situation with criminalization, the head of the Parliamentary Security Committee, ErmonelaFelaj, provides another shocking figure. “The General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering has done a very good job as far as the confiscation of the proceeds of crime is concerned. There are 60 million euros worth of assets which have been confiscated by this institution”. 60 million euros in four years, generated from criminal activities, financing of terrorism and corruption. This is the largest figure ever reported this years, but something is not right. In any other case, this would be considered a big success and a clear indicator of war against the criminalization of the economy. The fact that authorities are not making a big deal out of it shows that this figure is only a small part and that perhaps, the arrival of foreign experts who will assist in the fight against crime and corruption may lead to the discovery of much more enormous amounts that crime and corrupt officials circulate. The General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering may have done a good job during this period, but this may precede what will be revealed later on as part of the Vetting process and the establishment of the Bureau of Investigation, because the media has just recently reported about a former head of the General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering who owned a 11 thousand square meter property in Dhermi.
Although former minister Felaj said that judges and prosecutors have also been involved in these shady transactions and that the evidence has been sent to the Prosecution of Serious Crimes and police, the issue is deeper than this, because the report also reveals terrorist funding transactions and this should be a cause for concern.
Money seized from criminal activities has nothing to do with common people and street crime. They are money which has been invested in different sectors of the economy and with the new laws in place, they could be vested with the status of strategic investor for the construction of tourist resorts if they submit a project amounting to 5 million euros. And this is the reason why common people want to leave the country. Crime and criminalized economies are in their own haven and have no reason to leave the country. This country is now being bought with crime money, crime in the sense of traffickers and crime in the sense of corrupted officials, because in both cases, they account for a serious violation of the law and disrupt the normal functioning of a state.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy