Albania arrests one former official, releases another on house arrest
Four years after being declared persona non grata by the United States State Department, former mayor of Durres Vangjush Dako was arrested in Albania for abuse of office, along with up to 10 other former officials, while a previously imprisoned ex-interior minister was released on house arrest.
The country’s special court against organised crime and corruption issued an arrest warrant against Dako, which led to him turning himself into Tirana Police Directorate. The warrant was issued after investigations into two separate cases; clearing the permit for the construction of a building in Durres two years after it was built and the tender for the construction of the promenade along the coast, which lost the state budget over €168,250.
Dako was declared non-grata by the US in 2019 for “major corruption”. He was elected mayor of Durres in 2007 and won the following two votes with a significant lead under the banner of the ruling Socialist Party.
In the 2017 general election, Dako, who was the political leader of the Durres district, was considered a key factor in the party’s national win.
Investigative documents and wiretapping obtained by BIRN and published in January 2019 raised suspicions that members of the Avdyli criminal group were involved in vote-buying in favour of Dako during the parliamentary elections of June 2017. Dako has denied the allegations.
An investigation against him for electoral irregularities was launched in 2017, but the results were never concluded.
Last week, Dako was called for questioning at the special court, where he remained for several hours.
Others placed under arrest include the former head of the cadastre, a lawyer of the municipality, and a former director of urban planning.
Freedom House recently praised Albania for several arrests and convictions of high-ranking officials for corruption. Furthermore, the EU has stressed that such convictions and a crackdown on corruption and organised crime are essential for Albania’s progression towards EU membership.
However, last week, former interior minister Saimir Tahiri who was serving three years and four months for allowing the cultivation of cannabis while in his ministerial position, was released from prison.
Having been charged with corruption of high-level officials, collaboration in the trafficking of narcotics and membership of a structured criminal group, he will serve the rest of his sentence – one year and eight months- on house arrest.
US Ambassador Yuri Kim called his release “disappointing” and reflects the old way of the justice system before US and EU-led reforms started.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)