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news 04 Oct 12

Kosovo's Limaj Still Under Investigation

A Kosovo court has rejected Fatmir Limaj’s motion that he is not obliged to answer corruption charges as a statue of limitations expired on April 23, saying that he is still under investigation.

Fatmir Aliu
BIRN
Pristina

Pristina’s District Court has ordered the former Minister of Transport Fatmir Limaj to make himself available to EULEX’s prosecutors, who suspect him of money laundering and corruption.

EULEX has been investigating Limaj since April 2010, when police raided the transport ministry and Limaj’s properties in Pristina, as part of a corruption probe linked to road tenders issued between 2007 and 2009.

Limaj has denied any wrongdoing during his time as the head of the ministry.

The initial investigation exceeded the time limit of 24 months on April 23, and Limaj’s defence filed an appeal arguing that EULEX cannot question his client after that date.

Tahir Rrecaj, who is a member of  Limaj’s defence team, stated in his letter to the court  that the questioning of his client is illegal.

“The prosecutor told us that he had widened the scope of the investigation against Mr Limaj on March 14 and 16,” Rrecaj said.

He argued that there was no precedent for changing the terms of the prosecution in this way, and called upon the court to order the European Prosecutor to either present his evidence or close the case.

“I propose you to order the prosecutor to take a decision to either close the investigation or raise an indictment, since as far as we are concerned the case  ended [on April 23],” Rrecaj wrote to the court.

EULEX’s spokesperson, Blerim Krasniqi, told BIRN that the court has clearly ruled that the prosecution has the right to call Limaj for questioning, and that no time limit applies to this case.

“Pristina’s District Courtconfirmed on September 19, that Limaj is obliged to present himself to EULEX’s Prosecutor,” Krasniqi said, quoting Article 230 of Kosovo’s Procedural Code.

On September 11, Limaj remained silent and did not answer any questions during an interview with the EULEX prosecutor, Johannes Picke.

The defence lawyer, Tome Gashi told reporters than that he had advised his client to use his right to remain silent, since they doubted that the prosecutor had a court warrant to prolong the investigation against his client.

Besides the former minister, his two brothers Demir and Florim Limaj, and a close associate, Endrit Shala, were also questioned by the prosecutor.

EULEX explained that the prosecutor was authorized by the court to question Limaj on September 11.

“The suspect is obliged to present himself. But he can also challenge the legitimacy through other legal procedures,” Blerim Krasniqi explained to BIRN on Tuesday.

Limaj, who is currently a member of parliament for the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, may be soon be charged with corruption during his time as the Minister of Transport, Post and Telecommunications, sources have told BIRN.

A Balkan Insight investigation revealed that a number of lucrative building contracts appear to have gone to friends and relatives of Limaj.

Limaj was recently freed in another trial, relating to war crimes during the 1999 conflict in Kosovo.

On May 2, a mixed panel of European and Kosovo Judges at Pristina’s District Court announced that they had found no evidence to justify continuing the trial against 10 former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters, including Limaj, who had been accused of war crimes.

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