Investigation 17 Nov 14

Albania Aiding EULEX Bribery Probe in Kosovo

Albania prosecutors are helping their Kosovo counterparts investigate corruption allegations against EULEX judge Francesco Florit, BIRN can reveal.

Aleksandra Bogdani and Flamur Vezaj
BIRN
Tirana
Albania District Court decision aproving legal assitance request for Kosovo authroties

Documents obtained by BIRN show that Tirana District Court on September 19 approved a prosecutor’s office request to assist the Kosovo judicial authorities in investigating an Italian EULEX judge and two others suspected of corruption.

According to the legal assistance request presented by the prosecutor’s office to the Tirana District Court, Kosovo authorities believe that between 2009 and 2011 Francesco Florit accepted promises of bribes 750,000 euro in bribes and actually received a bribe of 360,000 euro to “disregard all evidence in a murder trial”.

The trial involved three suspects, Besnik Hasani, Shpend Qerimi and Nusret Cena, accused in one case known as the “Explosion on Bill Clinton Blvd” and in another, known as “Baftiu’s triple murder”.

The defendants are all former members of a Kosovo police special unit.

In 2009, Hasani and Qerimi were found guilty in the blast trial, while Cena was acquitted. Florit was the presiding judge in a three-member panel.

The three men were tried earlier for a 2007 triple murder that took place near Kacanik. In that case Cena was also the only suspect to be acquitted, although Florit was not involved in that trial.

Florit has denied ever considering a bribe. “I have never received, and never been offered, any bribe from anyone,” he told BIRN.

Kosovo authorities believe that the bribe was arranged in 2009 between Flurim Hasani - Besnik Hasani’s brother - his lawyer, Mahmut Halimi and Judge Florit.

“Flurim Hasani has declared that he traveled to Durres [in Albania] together with his lawyer to meet the judge and arrange the bribe,” the Tirana prosecutor’s request reads.

Flurim Hasani said his lawyer met Florit on a pier in Durres and they then moved off together to a boat.

“During that meeting, the lawyer [Mahmut Halimi] and the judge agreed for a 250,000 euro bribe to be paid for each of the defendants,” the request adds.

Following the alleged meeting between Florit and Halimi in Durres, Florim Hasani told the families of the two other defendants to collect the money for the bribe.

However, despite the agreement, Flurim Hasani never collected the sum of 750,000 euro allegedly sought by the judge.

A smaller sum of 360,000 euro is believed to have been paid to the judge by Afet Cena, the brother of Nusret Cena, one of the three defendants.

“As a result, the latter [Cena] was the only one of the defendants freed from pre-trial detention and subsequently from all charges, while the two other defendants were convicted,” the prosecutor’s file with the court reads.

According to the document, the Kosovo authorities asked their Albanian counterparts to verify all dates of entrance to Albania in 2009 of Flurim Hasani, lawyer Halimi and Judge Florit.

The Kosovo’s prosecutor’s office and EULEX have also sought the point of entry of the suspects into Albania, the vehicles they used, and the names of any other passengers in the cars they traveled in.

Florit has denied visiting Albania in 2009, and maintains that the story is an effort to secure a retrial - which the family is urging in the Kacanik murder case.

The judge agreed to discuss the claims openly during a debate on the Kosovo TV station, Kohavision, when he said EULEX was wasting its time.

“The Mission should treat it [the bribe claim] for what it is - a nonsense that does not deserve attention or a further waste of time and which should be archived,” he said.

The judge lamented that even if an investigation cleared his name, the allegations had effectively ruined his career. “Who would promote or recruit a judge who has been suspected of ‘selling decisions?,’” he asked.

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