News 05 Nov 14

EU Announces Kosovo Mission Graft Probe

Brussels' foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she will send an independent legal expert to look into corruption allegations at the EU's rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX.

Petrit Collaku
BIRN
Pristina
Federica Mogherini.

Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday that an independent expert will probe allegations that a EULEX judge took bribes to shut down cases against people accused of serious crimes.

“I took the decision today to appoint a legal expert, an independent legal expert, to look at and review the mission’s mandate implementation. Obviously with a particular focus on the handling of the allegations,” the EU foreign policy chief said.

The allegations surfaced last week when an EULEX prosecutor, Maria Bamieh, accused a former judge at the mission, Francesco Florit, of taking a 300,000 euro bribe to clear a man accused of murder and seeking another bribe in a corruption case against a Kosovo government official.

Florit strongly denied the accusations.

Bamieh, who has been suspended, has alleged that EULEX initially failed to investigate her suspicions about Florit, and instead has targeted her for being a whistleblower.

Elmar Brok, the chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, urged the EU on Tuesday to fully investigate the allegations to ensure that EULEX remained credible.

“The mission’s role in Kosovo is to fight against corruption and impunity, and it should set an example. We must show with no hesitation that no one is above the law and that the fight against corruption is our key priority, both in Kosovo, but within our own institutions as well,” Brok said, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Bamieh has also accused the head of the EULEX special prosecution, Jonathan Ratel, of obstructing one of her investigations involving Kosovo MP, Azem Syla, a top Democratic Party of Kosovo official.

Syla and nine other people were suspected of illegally acquiring land worth hundreds of millions of euro.

The MP said however that the allegations were false.

“The credibility of such accusations is often unfounded and tendentious,” Syla told Pristina-based daily newspaper Koha Ditore on Wednesday.

Syla added that he has made public his personal and family fortune by the competent authorities.

Ratel told BIRN last week that he did not want to respond to Bamieh’s allegations.

EULEX deals with cases of organised crime, corruption and war crimes which are considered too important or sensitive to be handled by the Kosovo judiciary.

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