December 20th, 2017
This newsletter is drafted by the International Affairs Bureau of the Democratic Party of Albania in response to the growing interest from international partners and organisations on the democracy and rule of law standards in the country.

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SPECIAL UPDATE :

The Unconstitutional
Temporary General Prosecutor Nomination

THE CONTEXT
Temporary General Prosecutor elected amid investigations on Government ties to drug trafficking, vote-buying and corruption allegations.

On Monday, December 18th, the ruling socialist majority elected a Temporary General Prosecutor with less then half the votes of all members of parliament. All parliamentary parties, but socialists, boycotted the vote or voted against.

The entire selection and voting process was unconstitutional. The procedure for electing the General Prosecutor is the sole prerogative of the High Council of Prosecutors, an independent institution established by the Constitution (as part of the Justice Reform), which has not yet been formed. The Constitution required the HCP to have been in place by April 2017, but the process has been delayed. In such circumstances, the ruling majority decided to seize all constitutional competencies reserved to the HCP and conduct an illegitimate process of electing a Temporary General Prosecutor, who would serve until the HCP is established and elects a new General Prosecutor. (Follow LINK for a more detailed explanation).  

Protest were held outside and inside the parliament chamber during the parliamentary vote, but that did little to prevent the ruling majority from unconstitutionally electing an illegitimate Temporary General Prosecutor.

The unconstitutional election of a temporary general prosecutor happened at a time when several close allies of Prime Minister Rama are being investigated for ties to criminal organizations and corruption. Saimir Tahiri — Prime Minister’s right hand and former minister of interior (2013-2017) — is under investigation by Italian anti-mafia prosecutors and Albanian prosecutors for aiding and abetting a major international drug trafficking organization. Some of country’s top police chiefs are under investigation on drug related charges, as well. Another close ally, Vangjush Dako, mayor of Durres, country’s second largest city, is also under investigation for ties to criminal organizations, corruption and conspiracy to commit vote fraud. Several high profile corruption cases are also under investigation, as there are hundreds of voter fraud cases.

The way Prime Minister Rama imposed his handpicked GP, has raised serious concerns that he might be attempting, through the new GP, to derail the criminal investigations of his allies and escape any personal responsibility or implication in their crimes, as well as stop investigations on vote buying and vote fraud in general.


THE FACTS

Why the appointment of the Temporary General Prosecutor is unconstitutional ?

In July 2016, the Albanian parliament amended more than one third of the country’s constitution as part of a thorough justice reform designed with the assistance and support of the EU and the US government.

The aim of the reform was to increase the independence of the judiciary from politics and to cleanse the system of corrupted and incompetent individuals. 

A number of independent institutions were created to manage the justice system, including the High Council of Judges and the High Council of Prosecutors (HCP). The HCP was tasked to guarantee the independence and accountability of the prosecutorial system, and to take all decisions regarding the career of prosecutors at all levels (appointment, promotion, professional evaluation, disciplinary sanctioning and release form office). In particular, the HCP is responsible for managing the electing of the General prosecutor and assigning prosecutors that will work in the special unit charged with investigating corruption and organized crime (SPAK). 

The HCP is comprised of 11 members, 6 elected among prosecutors and 5 among lawyers outside the system, including academia and civil society.

Constitution amendments stated that HCP should have been established by April 2017. However, the ruling majority has stalled efforts to establish the HCP, which is not yet installed.

In 5 December 2017, the term of the incumbent General Prosecutor (GP) was deemed complete, but the election of a new GP was not possible due to the fact that the HCP was not yet established.

According to the Constitution, it is the High Council of Prosecutors that shall declare, through a formal decision, that the mandate of a GP is completed (Article 148/c), and then manage an open and public process for electing the new GP. Article 148/a of the Constitution tasks the HCP to professionally evaluate and rank all candidates for the position, and then submit the three top ranked candidates to parliament, which shall elect the new GP among them, by a three-fifth majority vote. If parliament fails to elect any of them within 30 days from receiving the proposal, than the top ranked candidate shall be nominated GP.

In the absence of the HCP, the ruling majority decided to elect a Temporary General Prosecutor, by a simple majority vote of the parliament. Further more, they decided no to vet the candidates, despite vetting being a constitutional obligation for any prosecutorial nomination.

Without any legal basis and without any formal decision, the Legal Affairs Committee usurped all the prerogatives that the Constitution gives to the HCP, and opened, in the process of applications for the GP position. They gave prosecutors only 24 hours to apply, then interviewed the next day all those that applied, and then decided to propose one of them for a parliamentary vote.

Everything was played out in three days: on December 11th, the socialist parliamentary group decided that the deadline for applicants to apply would be until December 12th, at 18:00, a mere 24 hours time span; on December 13th all seven applicants were interviewed; on December 14th the Legal Affairs Committee selected three candidates to be voted by the Parliament. The vote took place on December 18th and Arta Marku was elected a Temporary General prosecutor with 69 votes (out of 140 members of the parliament). All parliamentary parties, but the socialists, boycotted the entire process including the vote, while at least one majority MP was photographed voting for other MPs, not present in the chamber during the voting.
 


DP Leader Basha in the Parliament:
You are viciously preparing for a de facto coup d’état.

18/12/2017 

"Ladies and gentleman, 
My fellow citizens,

Today is one of the most dramatic days of this Parliament; one of the worst days of these last 27 years of democracy; one of the most challenging days for those Albanian citizens who fought for a democratic country governed by rule of law, where the Law and the Constitution are respected. 

Today, in a blatant violation of the Constitution, the ruling socialist majority is trying to grab powers that do not belong to it. Worse, powers it is forbidden to have.
This parliamentary session is unconstitutional. 

Today, you are viciously preparing for a de facto coup d’état. 

For centuries, the western civilization, the nations of Western Europe and the United States, have clearly sanctioned the separation of powers as the foundation of individual freedoms and democracy. Albanian citizens have also chosen the same principle.
The legislative, executive and justice branches are, and should always be, separated from each other. 

This is why the Albanian Constitution, and the Justice Reform embodied in Constitution unmistakably prohibit that a single political force may have the power to appoint alone the Attorney General. Articles of the Constitution are clear.
You have been constantly warned in the past to keep your hands away from the Justice system. 

You have been warned not to continue obstructing and blocking the investigations relating to Saimir Tahiri, Vangjush Dako, Qazim Sejdini and corrupted Ministers.

But you seem determined to violate the Constitution in order to protect yourself, to protect your illegitimate power, to protect your illegal riches. 

In the name of the Constitution, I ask you to back off. The Constitution is the reason why this Parliament exists, and not other way around. This is the will of the people, submit to it or accept the consequences!"


THE FACTS
The unilateral election of a Temporary General Prosecutor is a threat to the future of Albania

Why the unconstitutional nomination of a Temporary General Prosecutor may be a threat for the future of the Albanian Justice Reform and democracy? A short reminder of the major facts is necessary to understand the dangerous impasse Albania is facing today: 

> 2013 : DP launches the decriminalization process after several MPs, Mayors, City Councillors, Senior Officials including among Police forces, are accused of heavy criminal records and malpractices in they public and political activity.

> 2014 : Top-state officials and politicians, including Minister of Interior Tahiri, are accused supporting cannabis production throughout the country at unprecedented scale.

> 2015 : The local elections are heavily influenced after massive vote-buying and criminal gangs involvement during an electoral campaign fueled by illicit profits from cannabis trafficking.

> 2016 : A bi-partisan consensus vote of the Justice reform is ensured, albeit under heavy doubts that the ruling majority is seeking to capture the justice system in order to ensure the future impunity of criminals involved in politics, their backing of cannabis production and funding of vote-buying.

> 2017 : Legislative elections under the sign of massive vote-buying; no big-fishes arrested; illicit traffics explode; Police support to criminal networks proved amid Tahiri wiretaps scandal... while the Constitution is violated by the same ruling majority wishing to have a "politically kidnapped" Temporary General Prosecution.

In details: 

January 14th, 2015 – the Xibraka Case
Following a direct request from the German Bundeskriminalamt / Hannover Prosecution Office, Albanian Special Police stormed the largest cocaine refinery in the Balkans, in Xibraka (Elbasan) south of Tirana on 14 January 2015 and arrested the criminal group running it. Amid the arrested and later convicted is the nephew of the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha. There are widespread allegations that Olsi Rama, the brother of PM Edi Rama was also involved.  

September 15th, 2016 – Air trafficking booms after construction of hidden airstrip
After a first accident on May 2014 in Divjaka, where a small airplane crashed while trafficking more than 300kg of cannabis, another airplane crashed in Durres while attempting to traffic 250kg of cannabis. In both cases, the small airplane pilots were of Italian origin. Albeit there have been several accusations of cannabis air-trafficking (a first time-ever in Albania), PM Rama has constantly refused such accusations as being “flies”. The Durres case is particularly unique as traffickers had achieved to build a private illegal hidden airstrip long 1.5km. No individuals have been arrested relating to these cases except for the Italian pilots

May 13th, 2016 - Greece's request to arrest Balkans' Escobar fails
Albanian authorities fail to apply an International Warrant issued by Greek authorities to arrest Klement Balili, considered as the Escobar of the Balkans and one of the biggest drug traffickers of the region according to reports from the DEA and the Greek police authorities. Former Regional Director of the road infrastructure in the south of the country, Balili lives freely in Albania and participates openly to family gatherings and social events. A former Minister of Justice, Mr. Ylli Manjani (member of the SMI party), has made strong accusations against Saimir Tahiri (at the time Minister of Interior) for his unwillingness to arrest Balili albeit the international warrant on him. Manjani was sacked by Rama immediately after this declaration on January 2017. Manjani’s brutal sacking and public accusations happened at the same time as the instalment of the opposition tent. It shall be noted that Balili nephew is Mayor of the city of Delvina.


April 3rd, 2017 – the Decriminalization process
In an official declaration, the Prosecution office states that it has reached up to 400 cases of current and former MPs, Mayors, local elected councilors and high senior officials that fall within the decriminalization law investigations. Out of these, 119 have hidden their previous convictions and criminal records while filling their decriminalization file. The most prominent case is that of the socialist Mayor of Kavaja, Elvis Rroshi, who had five different identities (names) so he could hide his convictions for drug smuggling in Switzerland and gang-rape in Italy. Rama has continuously praised Rroshi as being a role model of the city of Kavaja.

October 16th, 2017 – the Italian wiretaps scandal
The Italian wiretaps scandal erupts. The Habilaj’s brother, cousins of former Minister of Interior Tahiri, are arrested in Italy as part of a large organized crime gang having trafficked more than 300 million euros of cannabis and ammunition since as late 2013. The Italian wiretaps confirm the opposition’s previous accusation that the Habilaj cousins were Tahiri’s protégés (use of the Minister's personal car, travelling together abroad, untouchable status by the police, influence to shut down sea Police radars etc). The Habilaj’s are wiretapped saying that Tahiri could spend up to 20 million euros during a single electoral campaign and that he can make up to five million in a month.

October 25th, 2017 – Rama’s conflict with the Prosecution 
The ruling majority refuses the official request of the Albanian Prosecution to lift Tahiri’s MP immunity so he can be investigated on the links between the Habilaj’s gang activity and the potential support they have benefited from Tahiri. PM Rama makes several strong declarations against the Prosecution office threating and directly interfering into the justice system independence. Following this pressure, the EPP published a statement calling upon the full investigation of the Tahiri scandal from the Prosecution office.

October 30th, 2017 – “Albaleaks” and Secret Services Director resignation 
General Director of Albanian Secret Services resigns amid surprise decision, which is followed by the eruption of the “Albaleaks” scandal in the subsequent weeks. The scandal refers to the anonymous leak of a Secret Service report, confirming that PM Rama has been constantly informed on the support high-level Police officers were giving to cannabis producers and traffickers during the 2015/17 period. 128 police officers are named in the report, accompanied by the detailed official notes informing state authorities, including the PM. 

November 1st, 2017 – Tahiri’s 850.000 euros and sailing licenses scandal
Orest Sota, a young entrepreneur (25) and close friend of Former Minister of Saimir Tahiri, is caught while driving with more than 850.000 euros in cash from undeclared sources. During the control of the vehicle, police found in addition two sailing licenses of up to 100 tons, named after Saimir Tahiri, albeit he has publicly declared he has never owned a boat. The finding of Tahiri’s sailing licenses confirm previous widespread allegations that the Habilajs’ were using not only Tahiri’s personal car, but also his speed-boat, as a mean to gain an “untouchable” status from Police control in their cannabis trafficking to Italy. At the moment of Sota's interception, Tahiri's house was being searched by Prosecution.  

November 3rd, 2017 – Italy requesting the “arrest of big fishes”
The Italian Minister of Interior, during an official visit in Albania stated that the bulk cannabis seized in the Italian shores coming from Albania has quadrupled if compared to 12 tons on 2016, which is already a record amount per se. Until the end of December 2017, the total quantity of seized cannabis directly linked to bulk trafficking from Albania has passed 45 tons, representing a market value of close to 400 million euros. This amount is believed to be 1/10 of the cannabis that has successfully entered the market. The Italian Minister of Interior stated during his visit that “We have to attack the untouchables, the criminal gangs and organizations that control that traffic, because in Albania, Italy, and Europe there are no untouchables.” Based on the official Italian aerial monitoring (20% of Albanian territory controlled), the number of cannabis parcels has increased from 815 parcels representing 16.2 hectares on 2014, to 2086 parcels represent 213,5 ha during 2016. No major traffickers have been yet arrested except for the Habilaj brothers who were caught by Italian authorities.

November 20th, 2017 – Durres Mayor investigated for deal with crime over vote-buying
Opposition leader Basha denounced the pressure over the Prosecutor of the city of Durres and the existence of another wiretaps scandal relating to the socialist mayor of Durres, Vangjush Dako. According to the opposition, there are several wiretapped communications between Dako and representatives of organized crime in which he promises public contracts and tenders in exchange for massively buying votes in favor of the Socialist Party. The prosecutor investigating the affair has been abruptly moved from Durres to another city in the north of the country.

November 22nd, 2017 – Tahiri’s Chiefs of Police fled Prosecutors’ warrant
The Albanian Prosecution for Serious Crimes issued arrest warrants for three high-level Police Chiefs linked to the Habilaj gang criminal activity. All three arrests failed nevertheless as the three police chiefs had fled the country due to an internal leak from the Albanian police. The three police chiefs were appointed by Saimir Tahiri, at the time Minister of Interior. They are considered to be directly linked to the Habilaj’s gang and the cannabis record seizures in the city of Vlora (after their arrest) of 15 tons on July 17th 2017, and an additional of 10 tons on October 18th 2017. In the city of Shkodra, another senior Police official (brother of the National Border Police Deputy Chief) was caught trafficking 1.5 tons of cannabis during a routine road police control. All names were cited also in the "Albaleaks" Secret Services report. We shall remind that the brother of the current Minister of Interior, Agron Xhafaj, lives freely in Albania albeit he is convicted in Italy for cocaine trafficking.  

December 6th, 2017 – EUROPOL: Albania is the biggest source of Cannabis in Europe
The Europol Agency considers cannabis as the largest part of the EU 24 billion euros drug market and points out that “Albania remains the main source of herbal cannabis trafficked in the EU”. The report also states that the Balkan route is considered as the main entry route for the bulk of the heroin trafficked to the EU. More disturbingly, the reports states that “Routes used to traffic cannabis and heroin traverse the same regions, such as the Western Balkans, that are also linked to terrorism-related activities including terrorism financing.” Similarly, the report finds that money laundering has risen with solely 1% of criminal proceeds confiscated reflecting the poor results of state authorities in anti-money laundering activities. The US State Department has also included Albania among what are considered problematic countries for money laundering activities.

December 15th, 2017 - After Germay, Albania's asylym seekers no.1 also in France
During a visit in Tirana, the French Minister of Interior declared that the Albanian asylum-seekers in 2017 represented the first nationality in France, before Syrians and other nationalities in war (20% of the total requests). The French Ministry of Interior, like the Italian Ministry of Interior has done before, will deploy a special french police force in Albania to oversee and support the fight against cannabis as the Albanian-linked criminality. Last year, Albania was no.1 country of asylum seekers in Germany with close to 100.000 individuals.

THE LEGAL BACKGROUND
Detailed information on the election process of the Temporary General Prosecutor in Albania

On 18.12.2017, following the proposal of 28 MPs, the ruling majority of the National Assembly appointed a new Temporary General Prosecutor whose mandate is indefinite. The appointment was approved by 69 votes in favor, out of 140 members of the Assembly. This is clearly contrary to the Constitution and to international standards. 
 
According to the Constitution, the election of the Prosecutor General ... READ MORE.
 

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Democratic Party of Albania. 


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Democratic Party of Albania · Selia qendrore PD · Blv. Zhan d'Ark, No.11 · Tirana 1001 · Albania

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