Albanian State Advocate ignores Ministry of Justice in selection of foreign law firms assisting with arbitration proceedings

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Alma Hiçka, State Advocate General of Albania, stands accused of ignoring Ministry of Justice in her selection of foreign law firms

Tirana, Albania | Tirana Echo – The State Advocate General of Albania Alma Hiçka has illegally kept the Ministry of Justice out of selection procedures of foreign law firms representing Albania in international courts of arbitration says BIRN.

Since the appointment of Mrs. Hiçka as State Advocate General 3 years ago, the Albanian Government has spent more than €3m Euros in contracting foreign law firms to represent the country in international arbitration proceedings.

However, procedures followed by Hiçka in selecting these law firms have produced constant clashes with former Ministers of Justice Nasip Naço and Ylli Manjani.

Foreign law firms have been hired to help with several arbitration cases where the Albanian Government has been taken to court from several foreign companies demanding more than €670m Euros in damages caused from breaches of contracts or threats to their judicial security.

BIRN shows documents proving that during the last 3 years, the Minister of Justice has refused to approve the foreign law firm selection by Mrs. Hiçka in at least 6 procurement procedures.

The Ministry of Justice has said that procedures followed by the State Advocate are in breach of her mandate, failing to respect her direct dependence from the Ministry. In addition, several Albanian and other law firms have described the activity of Mrs. Hiçka as non transparent.

Hiçka has declined to comment on the accusations. However, in previous statements to BIRN, Hiçka described the contracts signed with foreign law firms as ‘commercial secret’.

The chronic conflicts between the State Advocate and the Minister of Justice point to a lack of local capacities in representing the interests of the Albanian State abroad.

During the arbitration proceedings with oil company ‘Bankers Petroleum’ Hiçka admitted that her institution lacked professional staff to cover international tribunals.

However, doubts are raised that the complaints on local capacities are used to cover up illegal selection procedures and keep the media and civil society in the dark when selecting foreign law firms.

Hiçka, a close ally of socialist PM Edi Rama, has been under several accusations during her term. Earlier in February, an Ad-Hoc parliamentary committee found that Hiçka’s husband, in clear conflict of interest, had represented Czech electricity giant ‘CEZ’ in their arbitration case against the Albanian government, which ended up with €600m Euros paid to CEZ from Albanian taxpayers wallet.

Hiçka has also been under accusation from various land & property owners associations for her  fierce defence of the infamous law on the return and compensations of land and properties of Albanian owners, one of the most important issues for foreign investors in Albania.

The State Advocate assists the Albanian government with international court proceedings and defends the interests of the Albanian State, under the direct dependency of the Ministry of Justice, which Hiçka has ignored since her appointment.

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