By Muhamet Brajshori
Two years after raids on Kosovo’s transport and telecommunication ministry, no information has emerged about possible corruption and abuse of office in the ministry and beyond, prompting public doubts about EULEX and Kosovo authorities’ willingness to deal with high-level crime.
The investigation targeted former minister Fatmir Limaj — a close political ally of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci — and the ministry’s procurement head, Nexhat Krasniqi, in what the media dubbed the biggest anti-corruption case in Kosovo.
“The process went very slowly and for a time it was almost forgotten,” Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Pristina-based Balkan Policy Institute, said.
A 24-month deadline passed on April 23rd after which Kosovo’s special prosecutor office is not able to undertake further investigative activities.
“We did not see a single indictment. Kosovo’s public opinion is not clear why those actions of raids and arrests were undertaken,” Petrit Zogaj, executive director of the FOL Movement, a Pristina-based anti-corruption NGO, told SETimes.
“At the time, the EULEX’s chief declared the raids were made on suspicion of misuse of 80m euros and they had evidence for 2m euros. This appears not to be so,” Zogaj said.
But EULEX spokesperson Blerim Krasniqi explained that the analysis of the information collected over the past two years continues after the deadline in order to make a final assessment at a later stage.
“According to Kosovo’s criminal code, investigative activities related to possible additional charges and defendants may still be undertaken,” Krasniqi told SETimes.
Critics also allege the prosecution dragged its feet and called in Limaj again following his arrest just three days prior to the deadline.
“It has been two years and EULEX waited until the last minute to make a decision about the case. This shows their seriousness about fighting corruption,” Bytyci said.
“The Kosovo public is unclear on why EULEX took so much time when the prosecutor told the media about clear evidence,” Zogaj said.
The prosecutor provided evidence favouring Limaj, his lawyer Tahir Recaj was quoted by KosovaPress as saying.
“[I am] convinced there will be no indictment against Limaj and hope the prosecutor’s case will cease all investigations against him,” Recaj said.
Bytyci says that EULEX needs to work to improve its image but, more than that, needs to take action.
“EULEX should improve its accountability because so far it produced no results worth mentioning while it raised expectations through pompous declarations. The interference in the ministry was seen as a spectacle, not as a serious effort, and the lack of results has strengthened this conviction,” Bytyci said.
Moreover, Zogaj argued since EULEX arrived in Kosovo in 2008, corruption and organised crime have not decreased. Kosovo’s basic problem is that rule of law does not reign, he said.
“I cannot say EULEX’s vision for our country’s future is hopeful, just as there is no hopeful vision for Kosovo’s institutions and the rule of law.”
Krasniqi however said EULEX is working full steam ahead, is handling over 59 on-going corruption investigations and has delivered 31 verdicts.
“EULEX is fighting corruption in mixed investigation teams with Kosovo prosecutors and Kosovo Police. EULEX will also step up its initiatives to increase public awareness about corruption and the fight against corruption,” Krasniqi said.