By Linda Karadaku
The arrest of the head of a task force against corruption — on corruption charges of his own — is a significant setback for Kosovo’s efforts to operate a government that can earn the trust of its citizens, analysts said.
Nazmi Mustafi, who has operated a task force in the Special Prosecutor’s Office since it was created by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in 2010, was arrested on Monday (April 2nd) by Kosovo’s EULEX office.
Mustafi and two associates are accused of taking a bribe from Pashk Mirashi, a former liquidator of the Pristina Credit Bank. Mirashi had been charged in March 2011 of embezzling 200,000 euros and served three months house arrest, but was released after he gave Mustafi a 20,000-euro bribe, according to Kosovo television KTV.
Brothers Reshat Zherka and Xhelal Zherka, who are accused of being Mustafi’s accomplices, were also arrested. They are accused of being Mustafi’s “mediators” in collecting bribes from suspects.
The Peja District Court ruled on Tuesday that Mustafi will remain in detention for 30 days. The Zherka brothers will be held for 15 days.
Kosovo State Prosecutor Ismet Kabashi, who also leads the Kosovo Prosecutors Council, said the charges are a blow against the prosecutor’s office.
“I express deep indignation for the fact that a prosecutor … and at the same time leader of the anti-corruption task force … has come contrary to the law and is suspected of having committed penal acts,” Kabashi said.
According to Balkan Insight, EULEX has been investigating Mustafi for more than a year after noticing that most of the cases he handled were dropped due to a lack of evidence, or ended with suspects being granted parole.
Mustafi’s biggest case focused on Hashim Rexhepi, the former governor of the Kosovo central bank, which collapsed in December when a court did not confirm the indictment against him, citing lack of evidence.
Merita Mustafa, manager of the Kosovo Democratic Institute’s Anti-corruption Programme, told SETimes that Mustafi’s arrest proves that it’s difficult to find people or institutions in Kosovo to oppose corruption.
“This phenomenon is more than present now in every segment, [it’s] becoming part of the system,” Mustafa said.
Avni Zogiani, co-founder of the Organisation for Democracy, Anti-Corruption and Dignity, said the case calls into question Mustafi’s handling of other cases.
“How is it possible that he continued to be in such an important position?” Zogiani told SETimes. “And the second concern — how much this person influenced the investigations in the big cases of corruption, having in mind that until now, no important case was successfully concluded?”
The Kosovo Democratic Institute and Transparency International Kosovo said the arrest only fuels the public perception of a link between politics and corruption and makes people lose hope that corruption can be fought.
“This case also shows once again the failure of multi-mechanisms created from Kosovo political institutions in Kosovo — the presidency, the government, the parliament — in order to fight corruption with efficiency. It seriously questions the need for the further existence of such mechanisms,” organisations said in a statement.