Gov’t approves amid debate law to seize criminal assets

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 7, 2020 10:53

Story Highlights

  • Justice Minister Etilda Gjonaj said that the new legal package will also convict all persons charged with serious crimes and involvement in organized crime and terrorism, but who have not been convicted due to corruption in the justice system.

Related Articles

TIRANA, Feb. 1 - The government adopted on Friday a legal package called the Anti-KCK package (anti-Seize Whatever you Can), aimed at seizing the assets of organized crime convicts, participation in criminal and terrorist organizations, trafficking and other serious crimes.

Justice Minister Etilda Gjonaj said that the new legal package will also convict all persons charged with serious crimes and involvement in organized crime and terrorism, but who have not been convicted due to corruption in the justice system.

"All of these individuals, whether convicted or charged with the crime categories I just mentioned, will have to prove that their homes, businesses, land, bank accounts, motor vehicles in their possession or even their families, stem from work and not by illegal and unjustified activity. The burden of proof will rely on them to justify the legality of their property,” said Gjonaj.

Gjonaj said the new legal package affects all those who have hidden illegal assets in the names of third parties, as well as corrupt judges and prosecutors. 

In order to achieve this, the parliament has to make changes to a series of laws.

The opposition’s Democratic Party welcomed this legal package with skepticism, calling it a propaganda initiative.

DP Secretary General Gazmend Bardhi said on social media that "the Rama government has never fought against crime but has cooperated with it, so this new initiative will fail, just as the previous ‘Force of Law’ initiative failed.”

According to the government, this package will strengthen the fight against corruption, terrorism and organized crime. 

Two weeks ago, on January 13, while announcing plans for the expected drafting of this package, Prime Minister Rama said that "... we have taken the initiative of a legal package that we are currently discussing with our irreplaceable partners, the US and the EU, and in the coming days we will turn it into a legal basis to undertake the most exemplary offensive against organized crime, developing a never-before-seen aggressive activity on the ground against all those who are convicted or charged, but escaped conviction as a result of the KCK, and the time has come to prove that their property does not stem from crime, or otherwise surrender this property.”

 

International partners: “New measures should be followed by justice reform institutions” 

In response to the interest of Voice of America on the new legal package, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Tirana initially could not comment on it because, as the spokesman put it, “we have not been able to study the latest version of the ‘anti-KCK’ legislation. We look forward to understanding the details,” while stressing that “we appreciate the Prime Minister's expression of political determination and will to fight the plague of organized crime.”

Even the office of the European Union Delegation in Tirana seems to be unaware of the legal package adopted on Friday. 

The EU Delegation also told VOA that "the European Union delegation has not seen the normative act adopted today and cannot comment at the moment."

On Sunday, the US Embassy reacted more thoroughly to the new package, especially after debate among the opposition and public broke out.

“While implementing important justice reforms, the United States welcomes the intensified efforts by the Albanian government to prevent organized crime from using illicit wealth to undermine the rule of law,” the US Embassy statement said.

“Enhanced law enforcement mechanisms should both support new justice institutions charged with prosecution of organized crime, and align with the standards of due process of law. We will continue to monitor the implementation of this law with great interest,” concludes the US Embassy statement.

In a twitter reaction, the EU Delegation Office in Tirana wrote that money tracking has proven to be a very effective way of dealing with criminal organizations.

"Money tracking" has proven to be a very effective way of dealing specifically with criminal organizations. The special law adopted by the Government of Albania introducing new preventive measures to strengthen the fight against organized crime and terrorism goes in this direction and shows the political will to address the issue. We will closely follow the concrete implementation of the normative act,” the statement said.

The EU goes on to comment that it is important that new legislative measures are implemented in full respect of the fundamental rights of defendants and in accordance with the principles of the rule of law. 

“It is also important that these new measures be followed through the institutions created by the justice reform, in particular SPAK. We continue to encourage the Albanian government to further step up its efforts to fully implement justice reform and strengthen the rule of law,” concludes the comment.

 

Civil society speaks out against govt’s plan 

Meanwhile, a number of civil society and human rights organizations, such as the Albanian Helsinki Committee, the Institute for Political Studies, BIRN Albania, the Albanian Science Institute, the Cooperation and Development Institute, the Urban Research Institute, etc, issued a statement saying the package’s importance should respect the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights, due to its ability to infringe basic human rights.

Approximately 21 civil society organizations reacted even before the government approved the package, when it declared this initiative on December 6, 2019, calling for an all-inclusive approach before the government went on to approve it to parliament. 

“Judging by the press release issued today by the media from the Ministry of Justice we have come to the conviction that our call for all-inclusiveness will not be taken into consideration. We are also informed by media reports that this legal package will interfere with and amend important laws, including the new Law on Justice Reform No. 96/2016 ‘on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors,” the SCOs statement reads.

Furthermore, the statement says that civil society organizations have been deprived by the government to see what the package more precisely foresees, thus infringing the basic principles of a democratic and transparent governing. 

Overall, SCOs are requesting from the government to be more accountable and transparent on the legal packages it is approving, especially such as this one with the power to seriously threaten human and citizen rights. 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 7, 2020 10:53