Fight against Drugs Left to Regional Prosecutors

With the changes in the Criminal Procedure Code proposed in a draft law that has been prepared in the framework of the judicial reform and sent to Parliament on December 28, 2016, the Rama Government is preparing to the transfer the investigation of drug trafficking to Regional Prosecution Offices. If this were to happen, the efficacy of legislative actions that obstruct the profitable activities of cannabis producers would be significantly lower.

In the former, pre-reform system, the cultivation and trade of drugs was the responsibility of the regional prosecutors, while drug trafficking and organized crime fell under the Prosecution of Serious Crimes, which in 2015 registered 365 new cases except the cases taken over from Regional Prosecution Offices.

The changes in the Criminal Procedure Code are part of the legal package envisioned by the judicial reform, which will dissolve the Prosecution of Serious Crime and create a Special Prosecution. The expertise on organized crime will be transferred to the Special Prosecution, together with all corruption cases and cases involving public administration, except abuse of office.

All trafficking cases, including those of drugs, will be left to responsibility of regional prosecutors, except in case the trafficking is part of an organized crime group, in which case it will be taken up by the Special Prosecution.

However, according to article 28(4) of the Penal Code, a criminal group is defined a group comprising three or more person that are “not coincidentally” related. This definition has always brought the challenge to prove this “non-coincidence,” because practically that means that the same group should have committed more than one similar action.

In fact, according to the annual report of the General Prosecution from 2015, of 32,000 cases registered in Albania, 1,900 dealt with the production and trade of drugs. There were 390 cases of international trafficking, of which 130 were drug related. There were only 15 cases dealing with criminal groups, with 7 ending up in court with a total of 41 convictions.

The decision about the jurisdiction of an investigation is based on the reference made by the police, which always conducts the initial investigations. The Prosecution can change the jurisdiction of an investigation in accordance with the investigation’s results. But it seems to be legally impossible that a regional prosecutor can remove himself from a large investigation and pass it on to the Special Prosecution.

Only local investigations that are performed in the context of large-scale international operations concerning drug traffic initiated by the General Prosecution can be transferred to the Special Prosecution.

In other words, the proposed legal framework will ensure that the local police commissaries will have the possibility to keep drug traffic investigations under their own control, even though they have few technical and professional resources.

So while the European Parliament requires a serious dedication to the fight against drug traffic and organized crime as a condition to the opening of EU accession negotiations, the government’s experts have produced a law that will precisely the opposite effect: for example, to trust the Regional Prosecution in Saranda with the investigation of Klement Balili. One can imagine how such an investigation would end.