By Perparim Isufi
Kosovo’s state prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi alleged that there are around 19,000 fake Kosovo Liberation Army war veterans who are wrongfully taking benefits from government funds.
“According to the information I have, in the investigation stage, we have obtained evidence that proves that 19,000 war veterans have illegally taken benefits from the [government] Commission on War Veterans and Invalids,” Kosovo’s state prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi told Radio Free Europe on Thursday.
Lumezi made the claim the day after a Kosovo special prosecutor, Elez Blakaj, resigned after allegedly receiving threats while investigating a case concerning war veterans lists.
Lumezi said that “there is no official information that Blakaj was threatened by politicians”.
He added that Blakaj had prepared a draft indictment on the war veterans case.
“We do not have an official indictment yet. If a prosecutor files an indictment against several individuals, it should be handed over to the relevant court… in this case, we have only a draft which the prosecutor [Elez Blakaj] has prepared and handed over to the Special Prosecution for review,” he said.
In June 2016, the state prosecution announced it had started collecting information about potential errors in the verification process of former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas. Being registered as a KLA veteran provides access to benefits.
“This probe… is directed towards those individuals who have committed wrongdoings by giving false testimonies or by presenting fictitious and false documents in order to gain war veteran status,” the prosecution said at the time.
The announcement came after the Kosovo government published a report which declared that 46,230 individuals were part of the guerrilla force in the 1998-99 conflict with Serbian forces.
NGOs and war veterans’ organisations in Pristina criticised these findings, raising concerns that the figures could have been inflated for political advantage.
Many KLA members became politicians after the 1998-99 war, including current President Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.
Some of them hold important positions in the government, while others became members of parliament or work in other state institutions.