From: Exit Staff
International Media Freedom Organisations Reviewing Asset Seizure of Ora News Owner

Following the seizure of the assets of the owner of Ora News, Ylli Ndroqi, international media organisations including the said they are reviewing the case before they issue a statement.

They confirmed that the incident had been reported but said that they needed to determine the nature of the allegations against Ndroqi, the context of the case, and the way in which police intervened at the premises of Ora News yesterday.

Yesterday, Ndroqi was apprehended by Special Forces near TEG on the outskirts of Tirana. Police then arrived at Ora News along with state officials who started to conduct an inventory of the premises. Some 30 police remained on site all day.

Ndroqi’s assets were seized yesterday at the behest of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office. According to SPAK, there is reasonable suspicion that Ndroqi, also known as Xhemail Pasmaciu was involved in criminal activity in Turkey, Italy, and Albania and that the source of his wealth is this activity.

SPAK claims that under the name of Pasmaciu, he was arrested twice. Once in Istanbul in 1998 for possession of over 30kg of heroin. Interpol in Tirana confirmed that Pasmaciu and Ndroqi were the same people and that ‘Pasmaciu’ had been arrested in Turkey. In addition to this, an arrest for drug trafficking was released by the prosecution in Milan in 2006 and he was arrested in February 2015.

Authorities confiscated several cars, apartments and other properties, including his stocks in a number of companies including RTV Ora where he is a majority shareholder, along with his wife.

In the meantime, the companies will continue their activities while being managed by the Agency for the Administration of Confiscated Assets.

Lawyers representing Ndroqi claim that the action is political retaliation due to his ongoing spat, and the lawsuit with Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj. Earlier this year, Veliaj and Ndroqi exchanged accusations of blackmail.

Ora News claimed they had been asked in the name of Veliaj, to stop reporting on him in a critical manner else their relatives who work for the Municipality would be fired. Ndroqi responded to the threat by saying he could not be blackmailed by the Mayor. Veliaj responded by publicly calling him a trafficker and claiming Ndroqi was trying to extort him.

In May, the National Health Inspectorate demanded that Ora be closed due to alleged violations of government instructions stating only one guest could be present in the TV studio. Eventually, the matter was resolved by payment of a fine, and the station was allowed to continue operating.

Sonila Meco, leading journalist with Ora said that if the state wanted to go after Ndroqi, it had to also investigate all other media owners.

Democratic Party spokeswoman Albana Vokshi said in a statement that the PD supports any investigation but that the claims of it being politically motivated against Ndroqi were worrying and require serious consideration.

Vokshi added that “sending police forces to surround RTV Ora and Ora news exerts psychological pressure on journalists and staff”. 

Ndroqi is not currently under arrest. His lawyers said they will appeal the siezure, that his wealth can be justified, and that this is a political attack in relation to Ora’s editorial line.