Opinion/The arrival of the Croatian prosecutor spreads fear among Albanian politicians

Opinion/The arrival of the Croatian prosecutor spreads fear among Albanian politicians

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By  Roland Qafoku

In the recent days, a foreign jurist has visited Tirana and this has caused panic among many Albanian politicians. Her name is Tamar Laptosh. She’s the prosecutor who shocked Croatia in 2010. Nobody believed that she would do anything when she took the case of the former strong man, arrogant and defying prime minister, Ivo Sander. But when a few months later, she ordered the arrest of the former prime minister, the whole country saw that this woman meant business. But does the fact that this woman has arrived in Tirana and the fact that for the next two years she will advise the Special Structure Against Corruption (SPAK) have any meaning? Is the justice reform in search of an Albanian prosecutor able to do what Laptosh did in Croatia? What will be the impact of a foreign prosecutor in investigating senior Albanian politicians and officials? These are the sort of questions that prosecutors, judges and politicians in Albania are wondering about these days.

Those who fear for themselves are saying: What does this Croatian woman have to do with the Albanian justice system? At the end of the day, she only has an advisory role. Those who fear for their friends and associates say: In Croatia, corruption is expanding, although the vetting has taken place. Those who always manage to find a problem say: Yes, it’s true former prime minister Ivo Sanader was acquitted by the Supreme Court, but this process and his arrest cannot be considered successful. However, the majority of people believe in the international community more than they believe in Albanian officials.

How did this Croatian woman, who was unknown even in her neighbourhood in Zagreb, manage to become no. 1 lawyer in Croatia, turning herself into a national symbol of the fight against corruption among politicians? Why did this 35 year old woman, who was still in the first steps of her career, arrested Croatia’s strong man? Where did this woman find the strength to defy all the political class? All of these questions have only one answer: On her morale and the faith that the people had placed on her. With these two weapons, nobody can stop the fight for justice.

“When I was investigating the Prime Minister, public confidence was not that high, because he was very powerful and arrogant. We came from an experience where government officials had never been investigated, but afterwards, we collected evidence and during this process, public confidence grew”.

These words are enough to understand Laptosh’s juridical profile and her determination to do something good for the country. This is very relevant for Albania and it was also seen in the meeting that Tamar Laptosh had with her Albanian colleagues. She was simplicity incarnate, while being surrounded by her Albanian colleagues who were wearing designer clothes. She is convinced that justice can triumph even in Albania.

Her presence in Tirana has scared many politicians. There are a number of cases where politicians have been involved. There are reports which suggest the involvement of senior officials belonging to all governing cabinets in the past 30 years. According to the High State Audit, the damage caused by the left wing government in nine months during 2018 amounted to 957 million euros. However, nobody has been held accountable for this.

Albanian politicians are afraid of the recent changes made in the parliament’s rulebook, according to which, a politician can be arrested once the prosecution submits evidence to parliament and parliament gives the go ahead, regardless of being a left wing or a right wing politician, in government or opposition. Laptosh’s arrival makes politicians even more scared. It’s true that Tamar Laptosh will not deliver decisions in Albania. She will not be the one who will decide on particular cases. However, her presence acts as a model as to how an Albanian prosecutor should be and what he should do. If the prosecutor has the will, desire, integrity and the right support, then he will make it. What Albania needs the most are prosecutors like Tamar Laptosh. In several occasions, the US embassy to Tirana has called on Albanian prosecutors to apply for a job at SPAK. This can be considered as a call to build a new state, different from the old one which used to be dominated by abuse. This is a message that shows that Americans want Albania more than we do:

“Albania is creating a new justice system, based on independence, professionalism and integrity. Prosecutors who share these ideals must answer this call to become part of the public service and this is not just a simple job. We call on these courageous people to become part of Albania’s future and apply for a position as part of SPAK”.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy