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07 May 10

EULEX: Limaj Could Face a Long Jail Term

Kosovo Minister of Transport Fatmir Limaj and the ministry’s head of procurement, Nexhat Krasniqi, could face up to 55 years in jail, if found guilty on corruption charges, according to EULEX’s acting chief prosecutor Johan van Vreeswijk.
Lawrence Marzouk

In a frank interview with Pristina daily Koha Ditore, Mr van Vreeswijk revealed that the officials face charges of money laundering, organised crime, fraud in office and soliciting bribes.

He also revealed that 6 other government ministers are also under investigation for corruption.

The comments follow a series of EULEX raids last Wednesday, April 28, on the Ministry of Transport and properties connected to Limaj. The action is in connection with a corruption probe linked to road tenders issued between 2007 and 2009.

A recent Balkan Insight investigation revealed that  a number of lucrative building contracts appear to have gone to friends and relatives of Fatmir Limaj. See Kosovo Minister’s Friends Flourish from Road Bonanza

Fatmir Limaj has refused to comment on the allegations against him. He had a short press statement on the night of the raids in which he denied all wrong-doing and said he would continue to concentrate on his work.

The raids have drawn criticism from members of Limaj’s governing party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and its supporters in the media.

In an interview with the public broadcaster RTK, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said that the raids sent out a message that ‘Kosovo’s institutions were at war with the international institutions’ and questioned whether the International Civilian Representative Pieter Feith had interfered in the judicial system.

Speaker of the parliament Jakup Krasniqi called the raids a ‘spectacle’ and questioned why EULEX had not simply asked for the necessary documents.

Mr van Vreeswijk rejected the claims, saying that the action was proportionate to seriousness of the crimes.

He said: “Before allowing such a thing, such a raid, you should have a strong case. This is decided by a judge.

“What is the Prime Minister trying to say? That he knows better than the judge how to apply the law? This is a dangerous remark from the prime minister.

“We are not pleased with his remarks, because he forgets one thing: that he is member of the executive branch. The parliament is the legislative. We are here for the judiciary.”

It also emerged during the interview that EULEX suspects that around two million euro has been misused in this specific case, adding ‘there are also other charges’.
 
He added that he was angry at suggestions by the prime minister that EULEX was conducting a ‘political war’.

Mr van Vreeswijk added: “Everybody who is involved in organised crime and corruption should start sweating. And if they are doing such a thing, let they stop from today.”

 

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