By Linda Karadaku
EULEX indicted eight judges, a lawyer and the representative of a socially owned enterprise on corruption charges, the latest in a series of miscues that hampers Pristina’s efforts to build a government and judicial system free of fraudulent behaviour.
The indictments were handed down on Tuesday (July 31st). The defendants include the former president of the Pristina municipal court, Nuhi Uka; former Pristina municipal court judges Olga Janicijevic, Sanije Muqolli, Shemsije Sheholli and Jehomir Milalic; former District Court judges Ekrem Agushi, Ferid Bislimi and Rrahman Retkoceri; Pristina lawyer Gazmend Gashi; and Hasnije Balidemaj, a lawyer for the former socially-owned enterprise Kosova Export, a former agriculture complex.
Uka and the judges are charged with abusing power and assisting in issuing unlawful judicial decisions. Gashi and Balidemaj are accused of assisting in abusing power and assisting in issuing unlawful judicial decisions.
EULEX officials said the defendants are suspected to have been involved in 15 civil cases related to ownership claims against socially owned enterprises, which were under the authority of the Supreme Court of Kosovo Special Chamber.
The judges are accused of making illegal judicial decisions to transform socially-owned hectares of land into private property. The Kosovo daily Zeri reported that the land, in the Pristina suburbs of Veternik, Caglavice and Llapnaselle, is valued at up to 60m euros.
EULEX also filed an indictment against Nazmi Mustafi, former head of the Kosovo Anti-Corruption Task Force, and three others for corruption-related offences. Mustafi, who was appointed by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in 2010 to direct Kosovo’s anti-corruption efforts, was arrested April 2nd by EULEX on charges that he accepted a 20,000-euro bribe.
EULEX indicted Mustafi this week for abusing power and illegal possession of weapons.
EULEX spokesman Blerim Krasniqi told SETimes that the mission is investigating 62 corruption cases in Kosovo, and has been involved recently in seven cases of judicial wrongdoing.
“Ten persons stood trial, and five were found guilty, among them several judges and a prosecutor,” Krasniqi said.
Avni Zogiani, head of Kosovo anti-corruption NGO, Cohu (Rise Up) said judicial corruption is a significant problem, in part because the legal system is tied to politics. Judges and prosecutors work on a daily basis for the interests of political parties.
“Justice in Kosovo has always had enough of these reports [of corruption], but the prosecutors used to have a political sense in selecting the cases, don’t do anything for a case when it smells related to politics,” Zogiani told SETimes.