By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Vetting Commission Again Confirms Government Favorite

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Independent Qualification Commission (KPK) is not, in fact, completely independent. Now that nearly a hundred judges and prosecutors have passed through its “filter,” it seems that certain figures fulfilling “key roles” in the recent capture of the judiciary are able to slip through the cracks.

The first example of this type was former Constitutional Judge Bashkim Dedja, whose vetting by the KPK glossed over several financial irregularities that would have brought down any other magistrate. The confirmation was appealed by the Public Commissioner at the recommendation of the International Monitoring Operation (ONM), and the verdict was fortunately overturned by the Special Appeals Chamber.

The second case was High Court President Xhezair Zaganjori, who again owned several shady assets, and whose confirmation by the KPK was again opposed by the ONM. An appeal filed against his confirmation is currently pending at the KPA, which has not set a date for a hearing yet.

The third in this unsavory list is Serious Crimes Prosecution Director Donika Prela.

Prela, who is a close associate of Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku, was first nominated as chief of the Durrës Prosecution Office in January 2018. Marku herself was pushed through Parliament as the Socialist majority candidate based on illegal grounds.

On May 8, 2018 the confidential mail office of the Durrës Prosecution was robbed under unclear circumstances. Rather than demanding an immediate investigation, Marku promoted Prela the next day to the directorship of the Serious Crimes Prosecution, after dismissing Besim Hajdarmataj, the chief investigator in the case of former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri. Prela’s appointment led to an end of Tahiri’s house arrest.

In her new role, Prela did the “dirty work” for Marku, for example by opening an investigation into prosecutor Rovena Gashi and Dritan Gina, after they had objected to Marku’s illegal reorganization of the Prosecution Office. Gashi and Gina’s case is now pending by the European Court of Human Rights.

Prela later illegally appointed Hajdarmataj as prosecutor to a high-level case against the Shullazi gang, in violation of procedure. Hajdarmataj, together with several other prosecutors, objected to Prela’s actions, and as a result was reprimanded by Marku and transferred to the Pogradec Prosecution Office. Recently, the High Prosecutorial Council (KLP) revoked Marku’s sanction of Hajdarmataj.

As with Dedja and Zaganjori, Prela’s asset declarations showed remarkable inconsistencies, which in other vetting cases have led to swift dismissal by the KPK. Also the ONM was critical of Prela’s dossier, confronting her with the fact she had evaded taxes by using cash. Prela answered simply: “I and my husband have been living in Albania and not in any of the EU countries,” implying that Albanian citizens don’t have to care about taxes.

Furthermore, it turned out recently that during Prela’s time as chief of the Durrës Prosecution Office, infamous gang leader Astrit Avdyli was arrested on illegal weapons charges, only later to be released. Recently published wiretaps show that Avdyli was a ringleader in the vote buying efforts of Socialist Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako.

Both Prela’s asset declaration and her involvement in several controversial cases of the Prosecution Office, which at least suggest a certain politicization of her actions, including protecting Tahiri and Dako from the investigations she herself is supposed to oversee, should have led to a clear dismissal by the KPK.

As Exit already predicted yesterday, the vetting committee today decided to confirm Prela. We will have to wait at least for another month to read the full verdict, after which the Public Commissioner will have the possibility of appealing the decision at the KPA. And a recommendation to do so by the ONM is more than expected.