‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities

‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities

TIRANA, Jan. 15 – Klement Balili, one of Albania’s most notorious crime scene protagonists, handed himself in to the authorities on Tuesday, after almost two years of playing hide and seek with justice. Balili has been listed along some of

Read Full Article
Evidence points to heavy clientelism in Rama’s public administration

Evidence points to heavy clientelism in Rama’s public administration

TIRANA, Jan. 15 – Serious Crimes Prosecution Office investigations on former head of Prisons Arben Cuko which were made public on Monday by the Voice of America tore down the facade of public competitions by exposing how local officials, Socialist

Read Full Article
Four under charges for failing to guard military base

Four under charges for failing to guard military base

TIRANA, Jan. 14 – The Vlora court remanded in custody four people after the weapons’ warehouse of  the Pashaliman military base was raided last week. Two base guards Lesko Ramosaco and Edlir Nelaj, student Ardit Ramaj and nurse Ervist Memsulaj

Read Full Article
“Albanians are the UK’s kings of cocaine,” the Guardian says

“Albanians are the UK’s kings of cocaine,” the Guardian says

TIRANA, Jan. 15 – A recent Guardian article has dubbed Albanians in the UK as the “kings of cocaine,” saying in particular that “the Albanian organized criminal syndicates are consolidating power within the EU criminal underworld and are on their

Read Full Article
Students clash with police trying to continue protests inside faculties

Students clash with police trying to continue protests inside faculties

TIRANA, Jan. 11 – Videos that went viral on social media on Friday showed state policemen physically clashing with smaller groups of students that have decided to continue the massive rallies of December in quest of the improvement of education

Read Full Article
Clash between media and gov’t as state institutions deny favoring DH Albania

Clash between media and gov’t as state institutions deny favoring DH Albania

FOLLOW-UP TIRANA, Jan. 11 – After the Voice of America raised allegations that state institutions had favored DH Albania in winning the government tender for the construction of a lot from the Great Ring road project, Albanian authorities claimed the

Read Full Article
Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender

Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – New evidence made public on Wednesday show the company DH Albania – which won the government tender to build one lot of the Great Ring road currently under construction by using falsified documents of US offshore

Read Full Article
Albanian President rejects new foreign minister

Albanian President rejects new foreign minister

TIRANA, Jan. 10 – Albania’s President, Ilir Meta, rejected on Wednesday evening Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to appoint 28-year-old, Kosovo national Gent Cakaj as the new foreign minister, creating a new rift in the President-PM relationship. In a public

Read Full Article
Corrupt district judge’s arrest highlights need for all-inclusive justice reform

Corrupt district judge’s arrest highlights need for all-inclusive justice reform

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albanian investigative TV show Stop published a video on Tuesday showing Fier judge Roland Hysi receiving monetary bribes and asking for sexual favors from a divorced woman in exchange of granting her daughter’s custody, proving the

Read Full Article
Democracy Index: Albania remains hybrid system between democracy and autocracy

Democracy Index: Albania remains hybrid system between democracy and autocracy

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – British renowned magazine The Economist ranked Albania among the last in Europe in its 2018 Democracy Index, stating the country’s political system is a mixture between democracy and autocracy, without making any steps towards a full-functioning

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 28
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => news
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [paged] => 0
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 28
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 10076
    [max_num_pages] => 1008
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => d4a0f75dce64a67d56d3bafd0a2061b6
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 28
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (28) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140083
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-15 16:40:28
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-15 15:40:28
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 15 - Klement Balili, one of Albania’s most notorious crime scene protagonists, handed himself in to the authorities on Tuesday, after almost two years of playing hide and seek with justice. 

Balili has been listed along some of the Balkans’ most sought-after criminals, leading an illegal network also operating in some EU countries, mainly Greece.

The Voice of America reported that albanian police has been under negotiation over the last year with Balili’s family members to have him surrender, in addition to operational actions.

These negotiations were reportedly led by the head of the Albanian State Police Ardi Veliu. It was to Veliu that Balili handed himself in on Tuesday, at 9.45 am, in an area between Saranda and Finiqi.

The exchange was witnessed by two of Balili’s family members and he was later driven off by Veliu to Tirana.

“Albanian police finalized today a long, complicated and very important operation for the surrender of Klement Balili, after an operational tracking process, in cooperation with the secrete state service and our international partners,” Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said.

His surrender comes at a time when the serious crimes prosecution has just completed the investigations and has sent Balili’s file to trial.

Balili is accused of "narcotics trafficking" committed in collaboration, in the form of a structured criminal group, "participation in the structured criminal group", "refusal to declare, non-declaration, concealment or false declaration of assets", and for "money laundering.”

Balil's name emerged during an investigation finalized in early May 2016 as part of an operation undertaken by Greek authorities in cooperation with the US DEA, where over 670 kilograms of marijuana were seized on the island of Zakynthos in eastern Greece .
Implicated in this operation was the Albanian police, as well as the authorities of several European Union countries where the network operated were allegedly, one of whose heads was Balili, dubbed by Greek media as the “Balkans’ Escobar.”

As a big number of the criminal organization’s members and leaders were caught in Greece, Balili managed to escape.

He initially appeared publicly in Saranda denying the charges, and then disappeared without a trace. This kick-started a long-standing ping-pong game among the Albanian institutions, with the police claiming to have demanded a warrant from the prosecution, while the latter had explained that it could not act for as long as the investigation did not provide evidence for the illegal activity in Albania,which is why it had requested evidence from Greece.

Balili’s file arrived from Greece late last year, and a couple of police operations to capture him at the end of December proved unsuccessful.

From the very beginning, strong doubts accompanied the Balili case. 

Greek media such as Greek CNN at the time clashed with the Albanian Embassy to Athens after publishing a paper which, referring to the sources of Greek authorities, stresed that Albanian police officers had declared to Greek partners during a secret meeting in Albania that they could not arrest the “Albanian baron” because he enjoyed political protection.

Balili was appointed director of the Saranda Regional Transport Directorate in Saranda in 2014. One of Balili's nephews was then elected mayor of Delvina Municipality, south of the country, under the Socialist Movement for Integration leadership, while his brother was also SMI coordinator in the country’s south.

The Balili brothers have had numerous commercial activities, ranging from transport services to those of object security, or fishing.

In 2015, they inaugurated a very expensive investment which turned the former Saranda Labor Camp into a luxury hotel. High state officials also attended the inauguration ceremony, while last year, quite ironically, most of Balili’s assets were sequestered. 
Klement Balili’s arrest was considered an important test for Albanian authorities by former US Ambassador Donald Lu, who in several public speeches mentioned his name as a sign of Albania's challenges in the area of ​​public order and security.

 
                    [post_title] => ‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => balkans-escobar-klement-balili-surrenders-to-albanian-authorities
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-15 16:40:28
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-15 15:40:28
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140083
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140080
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-15 14:29:23
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-15 13:29:23
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 15 - Serious Crimes Prosecution Office investigations on former head of Prisons Arben Cuko which were made public on Monday by the Voice of America tore down the facade of public competitions by exposing how local officials, Socialist Party MPs and, in one case, even Prime Minister Edi Rama’s own cabinet, hamper a fair employment process by encouraging clientelism.

Intercepts show how on April 30, 2018, Cuko received a phone call from Rama’s cabinet as requested by cabinet chief Vali Bizhga for one female’s employment. 

Under surveillance by the serious crimes prosecution, Cuko confirmed he had signed the female’s employment papers that same day.

“I spoke to Mrs. Bizhga half an hour ago and told her that Vitjona was working,” he is quoted having said in the transcripts. 

Voice of America evidence ensured by the prosecution’s own interceptions and exchanged messages prove that similar employment-related or employee transfer-related phone calls were a substantial part of Cuko’s work description.

Local officials, SP lawmakers and local elected officials were intercepted shifting influence dynamics and asking for employment favors or employees’ transfers within the prisons’ system based on political and personal ties, instead of meritocracy.

Interceptions also exposed how a massive recruitment competition at the Prison Police turned into an employment campaign for SP supporters or people tied to power - a widely-spread phenomenon in Albania’s public administration which the SP claimed to fight.

Cuko, ex-commander at the Guard of the Republic and a former SP MP, ended up at the top of the prisons’ system in July 2017, but only months later he was included in the prosecution’s investigations due to his phone communication with criminal group members for a convict’s transfer.

He was dismissed without making it a year in office and, in October 2018, he was arrested under corruption charges by the serious crimes. 

Cuko has denied the charges and is currently under house arrest.

The Serious Crimes Prosecution Office confirmed that the employment procedures of the prison system in Albania are under investigation, but one of the case leaders was reserved in commenting whether people under suspicion of exercising unlawful influence had been questioned. 

Bizhga herself has admitted the phone conversation during an interview with Voice of America, justifying her mediation as a favor to the Mother Teresa missionaries of charity sisters. 

Her statements were also confirmed by Sister Theresa Maria of the Tirana-based mission, who claimed to have asked Bizhga for help during a meeting at the PM’s Office, which she called privately.

The VoA writes the PM’s press office has declined requests to comment on the prisons’ recruitment process up the time the article was published.

As per common practice, Rama instead responded to the VoA article through a tweet, in which he said VoA had “fallen” to the standards of Tirana’s "garbage bin journalism" by defaming people based on “phone chats.”

“Go check the competition documents with the recruitment results, then slander away! You remembered the party appointments in the administration 30 years later and by grossly , and not professionally, attacking exactly those who are doing their best to curb the phenomenon,” Rama wrote. 

 

VoA: Clientelism in Albania runs strong 

The division of job positions in the country’s public administration based on political ties instead of meritocracy is a problem that has followed Albania’s transition closely. Public administration reform is another pre-condition for membership to the EU, whose latest progress report called for further steps in securing an efficient, depoliticized and professional administration.

Building a non-political administration is also one of Rama’s main campaign promises - during his 2017 campaign, Rama blamed then-allied Socialist Movement for Integration Party for political employments and promised changes.

However, the Cuko surveillance tapes prove these promises are deeply hampered by a system built on clientelism and exercised influence by officials of all ranks and levels.

The prosecution’s surveillance tapes uncovered other names in addition Bizhga, such as the head of the Laws Commission Ulsi Manja and SP lawmakers Klodiana Spahiu, Blerina Gjylameti and Paulin Sterkaj. Much more influence has been exercised by local officials and employees. 

Bizhga explained during her Voa interview that Mother Teresa missionaries has asked for help for 15 recent graduates coming from vulnerable families and experiencing difficulties in finding a job, adding she had felt bad during the meeting and had forwarded their CV-s to the National Employment Service.

According to VoA, the female mentioned in Cuko’s conversation - 30-year-old Vitjona Dervishaj - was also present in the meeting and insisted for a spot at the public administration as, according to Bizhga, her father was a Prison Police employee who had died on duty and whose colleagues had promised her his job position.

Bizhga insisted she had simply put in a word to enable Dervishaj access to the public competition, which is either way open to anyone who is qualified, not to ensure her a job position. Asked whether she had deservingly won the competition, Bizhga said she had not followed the process closely.

Meanwhile, Sister Teresa Maria, who was reached through phone, said she had asked for the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office out of necessity and that only Dervishaj had been assisted - although not in the position she requested - while the rest of the graduates had “wandered from one employment office to the other.”

Concerning Manja, the interceptions showed him asking Cuko to transfer one prisons’ employee from Kruja to Tirana, and similar favors were recorded coming from Durres MP Klodiana Spahiu.

Similarly, Blerina Gjylameti is mentioned in a conversation between Çuko and a third person, for interfering in the employment of a person associated with the SP, while Paulin Sterkaj is heard complaining about the transfer of a police officer from Tropoja, from the Ali Dem area 313 prison.

Gjylameti and Manja have answered to VoA allegations by saying they cannot give comments regarding an ongoing penal investigation and prior to the comments of the competent legal bodies.

 

The competition facade 

The penitentiary system in Albania consists of 23 correction facilities and counts a considerable number of employees, both in the police and administration. For both categories, recruitment procedures are conducted through public vacancies.

However, according to VoA a mass recruitment public competition turned into an employment campaign for SP militants and people tied to power.

The public competition for positions as policemen was announced late last March and aimed to recruit more than 250 employees for 17 penitentiary institutions in Albania. The examination was conducted on April 3 and the call was answered by more than 1300 candidates.

Exposing the facade, Cuko was heard complaining by mid-April that the entire process was blocked by the PM and that the candidates belonged to SP lists.

“Everything is blocked by the prime minister and I don’t know when it’ll be unblocked,” Cuko said on April 14th. "I expect to be told tomorrow afternoon who I will take, from number one to 250.”

Further on, Cuko is heard telling the person on the other end of the line that “Lushnja has no longer vacancies, Fier has 20 and they have brought 200 people. 1358 people were tested and they all belonged to party lists. They were clear that they will just put them in the prison system.”

Intercepts also highlight cheating on the testing process, where results are manipulated to favor candidates brought from the SP. 

“We will also go over the whole procedure faking that she won and all the rest of them lost. 217 people came to me, supposedly from the famous public contest,” Cuko is documented saying.

The Cuko files are not the first in the prison system, nor in the public administration as a whole. In June 2017, shortly before the general elections, the Ministry of Justice denounced LSI officials in Shkodra for fictitious employment in the still unfinished at the time Reci prison.

Whereas in March 2018, the Commissioner for Civil Service Oversight submitted to the Albanian assembly a report according to which 1/3 of public administration employment is made by order of title and outside of the law procedures.

 
                    [post_title] => Evidence points to heavy clientelism in Rama’s public administration   
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => evidence-points-to-heavy-clientelism-in-ramas-public-administration
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-15 14:29:23
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-15 13:29:23
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140080
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140072
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-14 16:39:25
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-14 15:39:25
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 14 - The Vlora court remanded in custody four people after the weapons’ warehouse of  the Pashaliman military base was raided last week.

Two base guards Lesko Ramosaco and Edlir Nelaj, student Ardit Ramaj and nurse Ervist Memsulaj are accused of “violating guarding rules on important facilities, resulting in armed robbery.”

Official data suggests that on January 9, at midnight, two automatic weapons, a carbine, 40 grenades and about 5500 different types of cartridges, including high power rifle bullets, were stolen. 

The investigation revealed the theft was carried out when the guard responsible had abandoned the post and was located in another environment while the practices of service control and guard shifts were also not respected.

Through their defense attorneys and self-declarations, the military officers claimed in court that the naval base had no security measures because there were no lighting and cameras, and that they were forced to perform long service hours in difficult weather conditions due to lack of effectives. 

Immediately after the incident was recorded the General Staff of the Armed Forces condemned the act and assured that the security, readiness and operationality of the Naval Force had not been compromised.

The Pashaliman base is one of the most important military facilities that serves the coastal fleet, carrying out controls of the Albanian maritime border regime and operations in the framework of NATO forces in Albania.

 
                    [post_title] => Four under charges for failing to guard military base 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => four-under-charges-for-failing-to-guard-military-base
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-14 16:39:25
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-14 15:39:25
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140072
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140066
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-14 15:33:31
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-14 14:33:31
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 15 - A recent Guardian article has dubbed Albanians in the UK as the “kings of cocaine,” saying in particular that “the Albanian organized criminal syndicates are consolidating power within the EU criminal underworld and are on their way to a near total takeover of the UK’s five billion pound cocaine market.”

The British newspaper described Albanian drug dealers as “sophisticated” and “professional,” while going in length to describe Albanians’ complicated take-over of the country’s entire illegal drug market. 

“They are quite charismatic and known to prioritize relationship-building rather than competitive feuds. Also, when you come from a country where there’s been conflict and you have a reputation for ruthlessness the charisma is underlined with an element of ‘actually, we do need to get on with these people,” Anna Sergi, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Essex who specializes in mafia relationships told the Guardian regarding Albanians. 

According to data collected by police and UK intelligencia, the Guardian reported Albanians turned the existing cocaine business model in the UK upside down by buying cocaine straight from South America’s cartels for about £4,000 to £5,500 a kilo as opposed to the usual £22,500 a kilo their rivals would get. 

“The Albanians lowered the price of cocaine – and increased its purity. The Albanian effect has profoundly shaped the use, production and economy of cocaine. The drug is at its cheapest in the UK since 1990 and purer than it has been for a decade, which has caused record fatalities,” the Guardian writes. 

Its sources include specialists and academics studying criminal networks, who reportedly say that another key element of the “Albanian mafia” success is collaborating with the powerful Italian ‘Ndrangheta’ to control the main European cocaine ports such as the Netherlands’ Rotterdam and Belgium’s Antwerp. 

Further studies conducted by the UK scholars and experts have shown the Albanians are not only collaborating with the Italian mafia, but are actually creating tight alliances. 

“Sources say the Italian mafia consider the Albanians as equals,” the Guardian writes.

The article doesn't fail to add that a determining factor in Albanians’ efficiency is “the Albanian code of besa - to keep the promise” and the “ancestral code of kanun, the right to take revenge.”

Meanwhile, the article concludes, the Albanian model has, according to some, even fueled knife crimes and drug disputes by making cocaine affordable to smaller gangs, while recruiting teenagers to the Hellbanianz way of life has never been easier.

 
                    [post_title] => “Albanians are the UK’s kings of cocaine,” the Guardian says 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albanians-are-the-uks-kings-of-cocaine-the-guardian-says
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-14 15:33:31
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-14 14:33:31
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140066
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140054
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-11 19:39:10
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-11 18:39:10
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 11 - Videos that went viral on social media on Friday showed state policemen physically clashing with smaller groups of students that have decided to continue the massive rallies of December in quest of the improvement of education by closing themselves inside their respective faculties. 

The video specifically showed policemen being violent towards students of the Faculty of Economics in order to push them away from the university environments, but without success.

A group of students stayed inside Tirana’s University Economics Faculty on Thursday night, persisting on their eight economic and academic demands.

Police intervened when protest groups were changing in the morning to continue the protest.
At the same time the police was under conflict with the protesters, Prime Minister Edi Rama was holding a meeting concerning universities.

Students have said they have decided to escalate the protest because they claim the 11 government decision undertaken by Rama by the end of December do not fulfill their demands, that the government is regarding this protest with arrogance and indifference, although they have been protesting for a month on the streets and boycotting the classes.

They say they will stay there until the government meets their demands, although the rectorate has called on students to return to their studies.

Meanwhile, local media has reported part of students from other faculties have resumed lectures since January. 

However, in the main faculties the protests remain massive. 

 
                    [post_title] => Students clash with police trying to continue protests inside faculties 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => students-clash-with-police-trying-to-continue-protests-inside-faculties
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-12 19:42:29
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-12 18:42:29
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140054
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140051
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-11 16:07:47
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-11 15:07:47
                    [post_content] => FOLLOW-UP

TIRANA, Jan. 11 - After the Voice of America raised allegations that state institutions had favored DH Albania in winning the government tender for the construction of a lot from the Great Ring road project, Albanian authorities claimed the licenses for DH Albania were issued in compliance with legal procedures.

The information was published via a three-page letter from the Technical Secretariat of the Special License Committee, and argued DH Albania had submitted all necessary documentation in respect of all the deadlines before it was issued a license.

Meanwhile, VoA has so far defended its investigation, and on Friday it called on state authorities to prove their claims with facts, which, according to the international media organization, state authorities still haven’t done.

Since the DH Albania scandal was made public, Albanian officials have tried to justify their themselves in their reactions by claiming it is impossible to verify whether the documents submitted for tenders are forged or not. The reactions so-far lack accountability for these easily-verifiable violations,” VoA writes.

News 24 TV-show “The Unexposed,” uncovering how US offshore Dunwel Haberman had falsified its founding act and the signature of the Delaware Secretary of State to prove it had not legal issues in the US, also uncovered how DH Albania, its official branch, had won two government tenders mounting up to 30 million euros in the past year.

A number of media - including "The Unexposed" host and journalist Ylli Rakipi, who was threatened two weeks after the scandal broke out - have further alleged that behind DH Albania is not its legal executive - 28-year-old, inexperienced Avdjol Dobi - but Albanian oligarch Bashkim Ulaj. 
                    [post_title] => Clash between media and gov’t as state institutions deny favoring DH Albania
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => follow-up-clash-between-media-and-govt-as-state-institutions-deny-favoring-dh-albania
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 16:11:38
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 15:11:38
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140051
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140001
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-10 20:28:44
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-10 19:28:44
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - New evidence made public on Wednesday show the company DH Albania - which won the government tender to build one lot of the Great Ring road currently under construction by using falsified documents of US offshore company Dunwel Haberman - was favored by the Albanian administration, which issued a construction license prior to the company’s registration at the National Business Centre.

News 24 TV-show “The Unexposed,” uncovering how US offshore Dunwel Haberman had falsified its founding act and the signature of the Delaware Secretary of State to prove it had not legal issues in the US, also uncovered how DH Albania, its official branch, had won two government tenders mounting up to 30 million euros in the past year.

So far, in all public appearances, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has insisted this was a case of company fraud and, cancelling the tenders, parallely began a constitutional investigation.

“You can find companies that enter tender competitions using falsified documents everywhere in the world. A government, a minister, a ministry, should not be judged on whether a company enters the race with falsified documents. They are judged based on how they act when the facts are unveiled. Concerning this case, where is the corruption that has happened?” Rama said at the end of December, speaking about DH Albania.

However, information gathered by the Voice of America testify that Albanian institutions were put to the company’s full service, even in violation of laws and regulations.

According to an official response the infrastructure ministry issued to VOA’s information request, it results that "DH-ALBANIA Company, branch of the foreign company, with its request dated 13.07.2018, accompanied by the relevant documentation, has applied to have its foreign license recognized in the field of construction.”

The infrastructure ministry’s website also states, in the listed documentation necessary to recognize foreign licenses, that is is required for companies to submit proof of registration at the NBC, which among others proves the tie of the still-unlicensed company with the mother company and its active status, among others.

However, on July 13, when the application was made, DH Albania was still an non-existent company. Referring to the NBC, the company was registered there on July 18, run by unknown, 26-year-old Avdjol Dobi. 

This indicates the Licenses Commission Secretariat began procedures to legalize an non-existent entity which was unable to identify as DH Albania, as it was lacking NBC proof at the time.

The licenses commission, headed by Gerta Lubonja, appointed with a Council of Ministers decision, also consists of three ministry of infrastructure directors. 

VOA has shown that based on the predetermined deadlines of the commission’s activity, now removed from the website, “the documentation, accompanied by summarized material compiled by the Technical Secretariat, shall be made available to the members of the Commission three working days prior to the meeting’s set date.”

The license for DH Albania was issued at the July 30 meeting, which was on a Monday. Consequently, the documentation for it should have been submitted to the commission at least on July 25. But according to the official response of the infrastructure ministry, DH Albania has completed all the documents only on July 27.

The violations in favor of DH Albania suggest it was clear to the commission it was not simply helping Dobi, but also the people hiding behind the entire fraud - allegedly, the Albanian oligarch Bashkim Ulaj.

Certain facts made public by VoA, show that Dobi and Ulaj have family ties, in addition to the fact that Ulaj’s employees from his owned Gener 2 company helped fill up DH Albania’s documentation and made payments on its behalf.

The country’s prosecution, which is investigating as crimes both the fraud and the misuse of institutional duty, has not yet been able to call Dobi to testify although he is not known to have officially left Albania. 

The DH Albania case has been ignored by the government on the surface, while “The Unexposed” show host and journalist Ylli Rakipi reported his life was threatened two weeks after going public with the story. 

 
                    [post_title] => Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => evidence-shows-govt-institutions-helped-dh-albania-win-great-ring-project-tender
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 12:37:04
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 11:37:04
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140001
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140007
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-10 11:08:18
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-10 10:08:18
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 10 - Albania's President, Ilir Meta, rejected on Wednesday evening Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to appoint 28-year-old, Kosovo national Gent Cakaj as the new foreign minister, creating a new rift in the President-PM relationship.

In a public letter directed to Rama published by Meta himself, he addressed, as political experts have been doing over the last week, all the regional and global challenges Albanian diplomacy will be facing next year.

Some of these challenges include Albania’s upcoming OSCE presidency as part of the Trojka organization, its expectation to open accession negotiations with the EU and the need to take the normalization talks between Serbia and Kosovo further, and Meta wrote the country doesn’t have the time to experiment with the young deputy minister’s knowledge.

Further on, Meta told Rama that during his duty as deputy minister of Europe and foreign affairs, Cakaj has shown with facts and stands that he lacks the necessary experience in the field of diplomacy in addition to having expressed unacceptable public opinions on regional issues of vital importance.

The president stopped at some of Cakaj’s statements about the border correction idea between Serbia and Kosovo, which was strongly opposed by most experts after it was proposed a few months back.

Meta said those statements went against the official state response, which was to also oppose the border correction idea, and calls them “dangerous” in his letter. 

Cakaj has also shown according to the president lack of responsibility in exercising his deputy minister post by ignoring law and article enforcement that guarantees safe circulation of classified state information.

Moreover, Meta wrote that “in the way it has been conducted, the process of security verification for Mr. Cakaj does not guarantee the right reliability of the Security Certificates issued by the Directory of Secure Classified Information.

He argues the DSCI has conducted all necessary verification for the proposed foreign minister within a day, which is not enough time to conduct all necessary verifications according to the official procedures provided by state institutions.Meta also said that due to Cakaj’s dual citizenship and his obtained degrees in different countries, he would need an even more extensive verification.

“Mr. Gent Cakaj’s candidacy does not meet conditions, does not create reliability and does not offer the necessary guarantee for the objective and skilful exercise of a post so important as that of the minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. 

On thursday afternoon, Rama reacted to Meta’s decision with a tweet, calling the rejection “unconstitutional.”

“The President’s refusal to decree the new minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs is not only unconstitutional, but also embarrassing. The arguments used by the President are scary for their scandalous level and shameful for the institution. Apologies to Kosovo for this shame,” Rama tweeted.

However, other political actors have expressed support towards Meta’s stand on the issue.

“Rightful and totally justified rejection! You can’t mock the state and play with its boundaries,” Genc Pollo, MP and Head of the EU Integration Commission wrote on twitter.

Remzi Lani, head of the Albanian Media Institute and member of the European Advisory Board, said that Meta has actually given Rama a chance to revoke his “mistake” and appoint someone who is more capable and appropriate for the most important diplomatic post.
                    [post_title] => Albanian President rejects new foreign minister 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => president-doesnt-decree-foreign-ministers-dismissal-in-new-pm-president-clash
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-14 12:45:59
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-14 11:45:59
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140007
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139987
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-09 15:14:27
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-09 14:14:27
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - Albanian investigative TV show Stop published a video on Tuesday showing Fier judge Roland Hysi receiving monetary bribes and asking for sexual favors from a divorced woman in exchange of granting her daughter’s custody, proving the country’s judiciary reform has a long way to go before getting completely rid of the corruption that causes deep injustice.

On Wednesday, a day after the show aired and the hidden camera video went viral, state police announced it had arrested both Hysi and psychologist Elona Mecani, who played the role of mediator between the judge and the mother seeking her daughter’s custody.

As clearly seen in the hidden camera, the woman, who remained anonymous throughout the show, was asked by Mecani, to give Hysi 500 euros prior to the second hearing that would appoint the custody finally, meet up with him and give him 500 euros after the case was settled. 

“After the first court hearing ended, at the court's door, psychologist Elona Meçani brought me inside a room and told me I should speak to the judge. I did not understand why I had to do that, as i thought I had submitted all the documents that were asked of me. The judge did not speak in the presence of the secretary, rather the secretary came out and said she’d arrange a meeting for us at a bar. I've been living in France for seven years and Fier has changed, so I went,” the mother told Stop.

Explaining how she had been granted her daughter’s custody upon their divorce and then had to emigrate in France, leaving her daughter with her parents until the father decided to appeal the decision, the mother said she initially argued with the judge and then decided to contact investigative journalists and bring Hysi upon justice. 

The hidden cameras further showed the woman met with Hysi, who in addition to promising her he’d give her the custody in exchange for the money, also asked her sexual favors in return. Later on, the woman had to pay an extra 500 euros for judge Taulant Banushi, who was shortlisted to handle the case that had to be re-opened, and a fee for the mediator, psychologist Mecani. 

Over the last two weeks, three first instance court head judges have been ousted by the justice reform’s vetting process - the heads the Berat, Sarand and Korca courts - while head of the Shkodra court Arben Zefi is facing allegation of being involved with corruption by the Independent Qualification Commission. 

Since the official start of the vetting process in March 2018, the IQC has verified and ousted a big number of judges and prosecutors, mainly based on the three pillars - the cleanliness of figure, the accumulated wealth and professional skills.

The vetting process first verified those applying to become part of the country’s new and reformed justice system and it is set to then evaluate any individual holding a legal position in the country. 

As local and international rule of law organizations have criticized time and time again the prolonged time it is taking for the vetting process to be finalized and the clutter of criminal cases that has been created as a result of a partially functioning justice system, cases like judge Hysi’s prove that faster and much more intensive work needs to be done to claim the justice reform has really been implemented in Albania. 

 

 
                    [post_title] => Corrupt district judge’s arrest highlights need for all-inclusive justice reform 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => case-of-corrupt-albanian-district-judge-highlights-need-for-all-inclusive-justice-reform
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 12:24:28
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 11:24:28
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139987
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140003
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-09 09:56:21
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-09 08:56:21
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - British renowned magazine The Economist ranked Albania among the last in Europe in its 2018 Democracy Index, stating the country’s political system is a mixture between democracy and autocracy, without making any steps towards a full-functioning democracy.

The Democracy Index of the Economist’s Intelligence Unit observes 165 independent states and two territories, in five categories: election process and pluralism; civil liberties; the government functionality; political participation; and political culture.

Based on the results of each category, countries are then categorized into four types of regimes: full democracy, troubled democracy, hybrid regime - between autocracy and democracy, and authoritarian regimes.

Amongst these indicators, Albania's lowest rating goes for goverment functionality, with a grade of 4.71 (in a 0-10 rating system), while the highest grade rating of 7.65 was awarded to its civil liberties. The electoral process and pluralism in Albania for 2018 is rated at grade 7, political participation is estimated at 5.56, while political culture is rated at grade 5. The overall score for Albania is 5.98.

The results for Albania have not changed over the last three years. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, it was again government functionality that received the lowest grade. 

Evaluation as a country with a hybrid regime comes as a result of government non-functionality, electoral irregularities, spread of corruption, weak rule of law and the lack of an independent judicial system.

The report particularly highlights the country’s main parties’ inability to cooperate, thus becoming a democracy stagnation factor.

At international level, Norway ranks first as the country with the highest rating in all observed indicators. Then rank Iceland and Sweden. In fourth place is New Zealand, while in fifth place comes Denmark. 

North Korea remains at the end of the classification with a score of 1.08 out of 10 points in total.
Costa Rica is the only country that climbed up the rank in 2018, moving from a country with troubled democracy to a country with full democracy. 

The report notes that over the last decade, among the 60 indexes that value the index in total, the most significant improvement occurred in the participation of women in politics. This progress can be easily illustrated by the percentage of women in the US Congress, which this year reached the highest level so far, at 20.3 percent.

 
                    [post_title] => Democracy Index: Albania remains hybrid system between democracy and autocracy
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => democracy-index-albania-remains-hybrid-system-between-democracy-and-autocracy
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 12:37:08
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 11:37:08
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140003
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

        )

    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 140083
            [post_author] => 281
            [post_date] => 2019-01-15 16:40:28
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-15 15:40:28
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 15 - Klement Balili, one of Albania’s most notorious crime scene protagonists, handed himself in to the authorities on Tuesday, after almost two years of playing hide and seek with justice. 

Balili has been listed along some of the Balkans’ most sought-after criminals, leading an illegal network also operating in some EU countries, mainly Greece.

The Voice of America reported that albanian police has been under negotiation over the last year with Balili’s family members to have him surrender, in addition to operational actions.

These negotiations were reportedly led by the head of the Albanian State Police Ardi Veliu. It was to Veliu that Balili handed himself in on Tuesday, at 9.45 am, in an area between Saranda and Finiqi.

The exchange was witnessed by two of Balili’s family members and he was later driven off by Veliu to Tirana.

“Albanian police finalized today a long, complicated and very important operation for the surrender of Klement Balili, after an operational tracking process, in cooperation with the secrete state service and our international partners,” Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said.

His surrender comes at a time when the serious crimes prosecution has just completed the investigations and has sent Balili’s file to trial.

Balili is accused of "narcotics trafficking" committed in collaboration, in the form of a structured criminal group, "participation in the structured criminal group", "refusal to declare, non-declaration, concealment or false declaration of assets", and for "money laundering.”

Balil's name emerged during an investigation finalized in early May 2016 as part of an operation undertaken by Greek authorities in cooperation with the US DEA, where over 670 kilograms of marijuana were seized on the island of Zakynthos in eastern Greece .
Implicated in this operation was the Albanian police, as well as the authorities of several European Union countries where the network operated were allegedly, one of whose heads was Balili, dubbed by Greek media as the “Balkans’ Escobar.”

As a big number of the criminal organization’s members and leaders were caught in Greece, Balili managed to escape.

He initially appeared publicly in Saranda denying the charges, and then disappeared without a trace. This kick-started a long-standing ping-pong game among the Albanian institutions, with the police claiming to have demanded a warrant from the prosecution, while the latter had explained that it could not act for as long as the investigation did not provide evidence for the illegal activity in Albania,which is why it had requested evidence from Greece.

Balili’s file arrived from Greece late last year, and a couple of police operations to capture him at the end of December proved unsuccessful.

From the very beginning, strong doubts accompanied the Balili case. 

Greek media such as Greek CNN at the time clashed with the Albanian Embassy to Athens after publishing a paper which, referring to the sources of Greek authorities, stresed that Albanian police officers had declared to Greek partners during a secret meeting in Albania that they could not arrest the “Albanian baron” because he enjoyed political protection.

Balili was appointed director of the Saranda Regional Transport Directorate in Saranda in 2014. One of Balili's nephews was then elected mayor of Delvina Municipality, south of the country, under the Socialist Movement for Integration leadership, while his brother was also SMI coordinator in the country’s south.

The Balili brothers have had numerous commercial activities, ranging from transport services to those of object security, or fishing.

In 2015, they inaugurated a very expensive investment which turned the former Saranda Labor Camp into a luxury hotel. High state officials also attended the inauguration ceremony, while last year, quite ironically, most of Balili’s assets were sequestered. 
Klement Balili’s arrest was considered an important test for Albanian authorities by former US Ambassador Donald Lu, who in several public speeches mentioned his name as a sign of Albania's challenges in the area of ​​public order and security.

 
            [post_title] => ‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities 
            [post_excerpt] => 
            [post_status] => publish
            [comment_status] => closed
            [ping_status] => closed
            [post_password] => 
            [post_name] => balkans-escobar-klement-balili-surrenders-to-albanian-authorities
            [to_ping] => 
            [pinged] => 
            [post_modified] => 2019-01-15 16:40:28
            [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-15 15:40:28
            [post_content_filtered] => 
            [post_parent] => 0
            [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140083
            [menu_order] => 0
            [post_type] => post
            [post_mime_type] => 
            [comment_count] => 0
            [filter] => raw
        )

    [queried_object] => stdClass Object
        (
            [term_id] => 28
            [name] => News
            [slug] => news
            [term_group] => 0
            [term_taxonomy_id] => 28
            [taxonomy] => category
            [description] => 
            [parent] => 0
            [count] => 10076
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 28
            [category_count] => 10076
            [category_description] => 
            [cat_name] => News
            [category_nicename] => news
            [category_parent] => 0
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 28
    [post__not_in] => Array
        (
        )

)

Latest News

Read More