The Serious Crimes Prosecution Office is expected to issue a warrant for the arrest of former General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla in the two following days.
A trusted source within the Prosecution told Exit that prosecutors have been, for days, under extraordinary political and diplomatic pressure, which included threats of sabotaging vetting procedures, from the Socialist government and representatives of a foreign power in Tirana, to arrest Llalla at any cost. The pressure has intensified the last two days, the demand being that the arrest be made before the visit, on Tuesday, of European Commissioners Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn. Despite lacking any substantial evidence, the prosecutors have capitulated under this pressure and an arrest warrant is expected to be issued soon.
Since at least five weeks ago, the Durrës Prosecution, which has taken over all “political cases” for the government, has been probing and investigating into Llalla’s past. The investigation was first concentrated on two elements: a few real estate transactions and a fine Llalla had to pay at a German airport for not declaring the amount of money he was carrying during his family’s move to Germany two years ago.
Lately, Durrës prosecutors have regurgitated an accusation from a few years back concerning the transfer of a prosecutor from Tirana to Shkodra in the middle of the investigation of a criminal who, even after the prosecutor change, was still sentenced to 15 years in prison.
However, none of the above provided the prosecutors with sufficient evidence to justify an official investigation. Nonetheless, under constant political pressure, the Durrës prosecution opened a formal investigation into Llalla three weeks ago. Llalla himself has never been notified or interrogated, and all actions of the prosecution has been concealed from the public.
However, they soon came to light through US Ambassador Donald Lu, who first declared that Llalla was being investigated for corruption and, in a second statement, said Llalla was a “corrupted and discredited public official, who is under active investigation for money laundering and massive unjustified wealth” and that Llalla opposed the Justice Reform because “he now risks to go to jail for his corruption.” Llalla responded to these allegations yesterday evening, denying them categorically and directly accusing Lu of interfering in the investigation and, more generally, in the judiciary system, thus overstepping his diplomatic status and infringing on both Albanian and international law.
The Durrës prosecution’s investigations into “money laundering” and “unjustified wealth” led nowhere, so the Durrës Prosecution Office handed them over, after three days, to the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, which is responsible for investigating the corruption of high state officials. This transfer is in itself debatable considering that fact that at the moment the case was transferred, Llalla no longer held any public office.
Issues of jurisdiction aside, according to the source cited above, after it took on the case, the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office has been under constant pressure from representatives of the government and the US embassy to arrest Llalla.
The source also stated that the government is eager to show proof of the war against crime and corruption before the visit of European Commissioners Mogherini and Hahn, who will arrive in Albania to announce that the European Commission has recommended the start of accession talks. The Commissioners will reserve a large amount of their praise precisely for the success of the Justice Reform.
It seems that Llalla’s arrest is a win-win-win situation. Donald Lu, besides revenge toward someone that caused him a lot of trouble, also needs to justify all the accusations he made toward Llalla and all the intelligence he has conveyed to Washington. At the same time, Prime Minister Edi Rama, Lu, and EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin need a “big fish” to parade around as a tangible result of the Justice Reform. In the coming dats, all the international media will write about how Albania is fighting corruption by arresting its former General Prosecutor; an excellent propaganda tool for the Rama-Lu-Vlahutin trio.
Most of all, though, the warrant for Llalla’s arrest solves a bigger problem Rama and Lu have been struggling against for some time: Llalla’s arrest will ease, if temporarily, growing international pressure for former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri’s arrest as proof of how serious the government’s war on crime and corruption is. With Llalla in prison, Tahiri remains out, which is convenient for all involved.