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12 Nov 10

Kosovo’s Rulers Trade Charges with Ex-Gun Runner

A US Balkan expert and a former KLA gun runner have become embroiled in a bitter war of words with the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo.

Lawrence Marzouk

When David Phillips, a US-based expert on Albanian issues, released his report, Realizing Kosova’s Independence in May, he little knew that only six months later he would be dragged into a bitter war of words, involving accusations of bribery and treachery.

In his report, Phillips, a former senior advisor at the State Department’s Bureau for European Affairs, quoted an anonymous source claiming that SHIK, the supposedly defunct intelligence arm of the ruling Democratic League of Kosovo, PDK, was receiving “$200 million a year via bribery, extortion, racketeering, and protection services”.

Phillips’ report has since been published by the prestigious National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

Florin Krasniqi, a former gunrunner and fundraiser for the Kosovo Liberation Army, who was then living in New York, has been widely fingered as the source of the information. Krasniqi is reported to have raised $30 million to arm and supply KLA fighters during the war.

Following publication of the report, the PDK, led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, which emerged from the KLA, attacked the report and its author.

Last Friday, it stepped up the row after Krasniqi announced his decision to join Vetevendosje, a radical nationalist group that campaigns against the international presence in Kosovo and which has decided to run in December’s general elections.

Krasniqi followed up his arrival in domestic politics with a series of blistering attacks on senior members of the PDK.

In an official press release, the PDK claimed that Krasniqi gave Phillips $500,000 to write his report, bribery accusations that the author has branded as “absurd and false”.

The PDK condemned Krasniqi as “a pseudo-patriot”, questioned his war record in helping the KLA, and accused him of having committed crimes in Kosovo and the US. “The PDK will take legal measures in pursuing the truth,” the party’s press release stated.

“As a governing party, not wanting to influence the acceleration or orientation of investigations, the PDK has requested an investigation into all charges, with EULEX [the EU rule-of-law mission] in charge.”

A EULEX spokesperson told Balkan Insight that it had not received any requests for information and urged anyone with evidence of crimes to contact Kosovo Police or a prosecutor first.

Responding to the accusations, Krasniqi said he would sue the PDK for defamation and he alleged that SHIK was behind the allegations.

The director of the former PDK-linked intelligence agency, Kadir Veseli, then emerged from the shadows and in a rare public pronouncement addressed the accusations against SHIK.

“I am not a member of any political campaign for power or part of any political formation, be it the Assembly or the government,” he began.

“I remain loyal to the principle of living and working with dignity and for the interests of my country, without being involved in politics,” he added.

Krasniqi told Balkan Insight that the PDK’s accusations were ridiculous. “They’re just fake tales made up by people who don’t deserve to be heads of public institutions,” he said.

“The PDK, together with SHIK, should take responsibility for the situation they’ve created in Kosovo, the high level of poverty, and so they need to be sent to prison,” he said.

Phillips was “a great friend of Albanians”, he added. Phillips told Balkan Insight that he “would not dignify the PDK’s absurd and false allegations with a detailed response”.

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