Court drops charges against opposition leader for lack of evidence

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 14, 2020 10:38

Court drops charges against opposition leader for lack of evidence

Story Highlights

  • The charge of falsifying documents against Lulzim Basha, Arben Ristani and Ilir Dervishaj was dropped by the court on Tuesday as unsupported by evidence, while in November the prosecution dropped the money-laundering charge it had previously formulated against them.

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TIRANA, Jan. 14 – The court of Tirana dismissed on Monday for lack of evidence the case of document falsification against the leader of the opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha and two other former officials near him.

The charge of falsifying documents against Lulzim Basha, Arben Ristani and Ilir Dervishaj was dropped by the court on Tuesday as unsupported by evidence, while in November the prosecution dropped the money-laundering charge it had previously formulated against them.

The prosecution charged the three opposition officials with falsifying documents related to DP lobbying contracts in the United States for a total of $675,000.

The amount, according to periodic statements to the US Department of Justice, was claimed by Nik Muzin’s company to have been received by three payers in 2017 for lobbying activities in favor of the Democratic Party.

The DP, according to prosecutors, did not declare these payments, falsified documents and only accepted a $25,000 payment.

The group of three prosecutors split in mid-November; one demanded that the investigation be continued on all charges, while the other two withdrew the money laundering charge and sent the file to the court only for falsification of documents.

Following Tuesday’s process, former DP Secretary General and one of the accused, Arben Ristani, said the charge was politically motivated by the governing Socialists, as the DP, according to him, had paid funds from its budget that had been made transparent to the Central Elections Commission.

The accused’s lawyer Eduard Halimi, stated that the charge was dropped after two years of investigation because it was based on speculation. 

“Investigations established that the indictment had nothing to do with the DP, constituted no criminal offense and that the DP did not violate the law. It was confirmed four times that the criminal offense did not exist,” said Halimi.

The leader of the Socialist Party’s parliamentary group Taulant Bala, meanwhile, said that Tuesday’s theater was a shame and that it was wrong for anyone to think that this case could be closed without being investigated thoroughly and without questioning all those involved. 

“This is not just a matter of Albanian justice. It was the stimulated hurry of some prosecutor and judge who did not go through the vetting process. The High Judicial Council and the High Prosecutorial Council should investigate procedural errors done intentionally. It is necessary to appeal this absurd decision and to return the case for a full investigation, giving the court guarantees for the interrogation of the moneylender Nick Muzin,” said Balla.

The issue of lobbying payments made by the DP opened in November 2017, when the US lobbying firm Muzin Capitol Partners supplemented with additional information its statutory requirements for the Department of Justice.

According to the Muzin company, it received three payments, totaling $675,000 for its work in favor of the DP in 2017: the first payment of $150,000 on March 24, 2017 was made by ‘Biniatta Trade LP,’ while the other two payments were made by the DP, one on March 27 for $ 25,000 and the other on June 9 for $ 500,000.

From these statements by the firm Muzin, the DP Chairman has admitted that only the $ 25,000 payment was made by his party.

The DP has further never accepted links to the ‘Biniatta Trade LP’ firm, which turns out to be registered in Scotland and owned by a chain of other companies, allegedly tied to Russia. 

The DP has stated that “it has not broken any law, neither Albanian, nor American and of any other country” and that “there has been no direct or indirect connection with Russian individuals or companies.” 

Regarding the $ 500,000 payment that Muzin has claimed to have been made by the DP, Basha has given contradictory explanations. 

Initially, he stated that “no such payment has been made by the Democratic Party,” while in November 2017 he justified the amount with the payment made thanks to a fundraiser by a large number of Albanian-Americans, but which had not passed through the party.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 14, 2020 10:38