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Albania

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption was pervasive in all branches of government. The law prohibits individuals with criminal convictions from serving as mayors, parliamentarians, or in government or state positions.

The constitution requires judges and prosecutors to undergo vetting for unexplained wealth, ties to organized crime, and professional proficiency. Vetting was conducted by the Independent Qualification Commission, and appeals were heard by an appeals chamber. The process was overseen by the International Monitoring Operation, which was composed of international judicial experts from the United States and the EU. As of October 24, the commission had dismissed 25 judges and prosecutors and confirmed 28, while 16 others had resigned from duty rather than undergo vetting.

A number of government agencies investigated corruption cases, but limited resources, investigative leaks, real and perceived political pressure, and a haphazard reassignment system hampered investigations. In selective instances involving international actors, anticorruption agencies cooperated with civil society.

Corruption: Between January and June, the prosecutor general’s office registered 83 new corruption investigations. During the same period, 29 individuals were convicted on corruption charges, and trials began against an additional 28 individuals. . Through August, 19,295 complaints had been submitted to authorities through the online portal stopkorruption.al, 1,396 of which contained information on alleged corrupt practices. A former interior minister remained under investigation for ties to organized crime and abuse of office.

While prosecutors made significant progress in pursuing low-level public corruption cases, including corrupt prosecutors and judges, prosecution of higher-level crimes remained rare due to investigators’ fear of retribution, a general lack of resources, and corruption within the judiciary itself.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to disclose their assets to the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest (HIDAACI), which monitored and verified such disclosures and made them available to the public. The law authorizes HIDAACI to fine officials who fail to comply with disclosure requirements or refer them to the prosecutor.

HIDAACI reported that through August it had referred 25 new cases for prosecution involving six Assembly members, one deputy minister, one mayor, six tax inspectors, six customs officials, and 11 other government officials on charges including refusing to declare, hiding, or falsifying asset declarations, money laundering, falsification of documents, and corruption. In 2017 HIDAACI fined 296 individuals for not disclosing their assets or conflicts of interest or for violating the law on whistleblower protection.

Kosovo

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. A lack of effective judicial oversight and general weakness in the rule of law contributed to the problem. Corruption cases were routinely subject to repeated appeal, and the judicial system often allowed statutes of limitation to expire without trying cases.

Corruption: The Kosovo Anticorruption Agency (ACA) and the National Audits Office shared responsibility for combating government corruption. As of June, the SPRK had received 44 cases from the ACA. Convictions on corruption charges continued to represent a small proportion of those investigated and charged.

NGOs and international organizations identified numerous alleged failures by the judiciary system to prosecute corruption, noting that very few cases brought against senior officials resulted in indictments. Sentencing of high-level officials convicted of corruption was often lenient. NGOs reported that indictments often failed because prosecutors filed incorrect charges or made procedural errors.

On April 6, the SPRK filed an indictment in the so-called Pronto II Affair against former Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) caucus chief Adem Grabovci, PDK innovation minister Besim Beqaj, and nine other politicians on charges related to nepotistic hiring in public institutions. A trial began in November.

On August 13, Special Prosecutor Elez Blakaj, who was working on the “Pronto” case and a veteran’s pension fraud case, resigned citing political intimidation and anonymous death threats. Prior to the threats, Blakaj brought charges against high-level officials for their alleged role in fraudulently granting veteran status to approximately 20,000 unqualified beneficiaries. SPRK officials, President Thaci, and the mayor of Pristina condemned the threats. In September, police arrested Assembly member Shkumbin Demaliaj on suspicion of inciting violence against Blakaj, though no indictment was issued as of November. On September 14, the SPRK filed indictments against nearly a dozen officials in the veterans’ pension case.

On November 5, the Pristina Basic Court convicted Shukri Buja, the former mayor of Lipjan/Lipljane, and five other individuals of accepting kickbacks from contractors working for the municipality.

Financial Disclosure: The law obliges all senior public officials and their family members to declare their property and the origins of their property annually. Senior officials must also report changes in their property holdings when assuming or terminating their public service. The ACA administers the data, verifies disclosures, and publishes them on its website. Authorities may fine officials charged with minor breaches of the requirement or prohibit them from exercising public functions for up to one year. The ACA referred all charges against those who had not filed to prosecutors.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future