Albania – Several high officials under arrest over abuses with penitentiary electronic surveillance tenders

Albanian Ministry of Justice
Albanian Ministry of Justice

Tirana, Albania | 06 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Twelve employees of the Ministry of Justice have been arrested last night in Albania, following months of investigation by Tirana prosecutors on deliberate abuses with public tenders related to penitentiary electronic surveillance.

Four leading officials of the justice ministry including former secretary general Juliana Hoxha and current economic director Aurel lamce have been arrested while 8 others have been placed under house arrest, on suspicion of abuses with public tenders during the period of 2016-2017.

The investigation shows abuses with 5 public tenders which have caused millions of Euros of losses to the Albanian state budget. In addition to the arrests, the current prisons director and former socialist mayor of Saranda, Mr. Stefan Cipa has been dismissed yesterday by the Minister of Justice. It is not yet known whether the dismissal is linked to arrests.

According to daily Shqiptarja.com, prosecutors are also looking into the role played by two former ministers of justice, Petrit Vasili and Ylli Manjani, both leading political figures of the former coalition ally of PM Rama’s socialists, the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), which was at the time being led by Albania’s current President Ilir Meta.

President Meta and PM Rama have recently engaged in a series of clashes where the former has been refusing to decree several proposals of the Council of Ministers, prompting the prime minister’s accusations that the president is acting ‘anti-constitutionally’.

Prosecutors have been investigating for months on abuses with public tenders in the following areas:

  1. Management of the Information System for Civil and Penal Cases Management (ICMIS), a system that substitutes the manual jobs in7 Albanian Courts.
  2. Improvement of electronic surveillance in the penal system.
  3. Development & management of the Albanian Notary Register.
  4. Video surveillance system for the prisons of Lezha and Fushë Kruja.
  5. Improvement & management of the bailiff electronic system.

According to local reports, abuses have first been detected  by an internal monitoring group at Albania’s Ministry of Justice and later by another team of the Ministry of Finances. Both teams noticed that a good part of such procured electronic systems were not functioning and have resulted in huge losses for Albania’s government budget. The inspectors referred the cases to Tirana’s prosecutors to investigate on suspicions of corruption.

Albania is under heavy pressure by the European Union to step up its fight against endemic corruption if it wants to formally open membership talks later this year.

Albania and its Western Balkan neighbors lead the list of Europe’s most corrupt countries despite efforts by the EU to welcome them into the club, scoring better than Russia and Ukraine but below north African countries like Tunisia and Morocco, according to the latest Transparency International report.

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