News 01 May 15

EU Kosovo Prosecutor Criticises Graft Allegations Probe

Former prosecutor Maria Bamieh said Brussels’ report on the handling of her allegations of corruption within the EU’s Kosovo rule-of-law mission did not prove there was no cover-up.

Una Hajdari
Maria Bamieh. Photo: Majlinda Hoxha.

Two weeks after a report was published concluding that the EU rule-of-law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) had reacted appropriately to corruption claims within its ranks, the prosecutor who unearthed the claims described the document as a disappointment.

In letter to BIRN Kosovo, former EULEX prosecutor Bamieh, whose claims sparked a scandal in the EU mission last year, said that the report on the investigation of her allegations by EU lawyer Jean-Paul Jacque did not get to grips with the issues she raised.

“This report is disappointing and in some instances factually inaccurate. Important information has been omitted and the report is more akin to an internal report as opposed to an independent report,” said Bamieh in the letter, which she also plan to send to the European Parliament.

“He [Jacque] does not deal with corruption in Kosovo and concentrates on me. His reports seeks to influence the ongoing investigation,” Bamieh says, referring to an investigation by the International Task Force – an external probe dealing with the corruption claims themselves.

The corruption scandal erupted last October after Bamieh expressed concerns that top EULEX legal staff might have accepted bribes from suspects or were not following court procedures. The Jacque report admitted that the scandal had damaged EULEX’s reputation.

Bamieh said Jacque he should stay away from making assessments about the validity of the evidence provided – this should be left to the task force, she insisted.

“His report seeks to influence the ongoing investigation by the independent task force as he constantly gives his opinion on witnesses and evidence,” she said

The former EULEX prosecutor “does not agree that there was no cover-up” of her allegations.

She said that in mid-2012 when she reported her suspicions to her superiors, the “senior management did not feel that there should be an investigation based on their intelligence backgrounds”.

But then in March 2013, after receiving what Bamieh claimed was “German intelligence”, the mission found grounds to investigate. In his report, Jacque did not explain the “fundamental change in approach”, she said.

“No account is made by Prof. Jacque as to why, when a member of staff reported corruption they did nothing, but when the information came from an external source they decided to look into it,” she added.

The reason given in the Jacque report for the delay in initiating the investigation is that due to changes in staff and administrative errors, Brussels was not made sufficiently aware of the document detailing Bamieh’s suspicions and there was no earlier action by senior EULEX staff to investigate the claims.

“The conclusion that there was no cover-up is a highly questionable conclusion. One person may fail to register a document, but here we have three people, all of whom have apparently independently made the same administrative error,” Bamieh said.

According to the timeline in the Jacque report, in June 2012, Maria Bamieh handed over a report to the EULEX mission heads which contained “elements which give grave cause for concern”.

Bamieh’s complaint featured intercepts of phone conversations between former health ministry official Ilir Tolaj, who was on trial for alleged bribery and tax evasion and was in prison at the time, and his various intermediaries, who were claiming to have spoken to judge Florit and promised Tolaj that the case was going to be settled in his favour.

The emails containing her report ended up on the desk of the EU Head of Mission at the time, and a meeting was supposed to be scheduled in August of 2012 to discuss the issue. The meeting never took place, and soon a new Head of Mission was appointed and the case was apparently forgotten.

The deputy Head of Mission did inform the European External Action Service of Bamieh’s findings orally but no trace of the case was found in the EULEX mission’s monthly reports to Brussels. The contact point in Brussels also seems to have no recollection of having received such information or having passed it on.

“The Mission did not start any inquiry at this date. It seems that the content of the intercepts was not felt to be particularly credible,” says the Jacque report.

But Bamieh said however that there was “absolutely no justification for this conclusion at all”.

She said that no one made any written note of their decision or the basis upon which they came to it.

The lack of any records and paper trail, even the loss of the original evidence handed over by Bamieh “points to a cover-up or at least should warrant further investigation by Jacque”, she insisted.

Bamieh was suspended after the allegations became public in Kosovo media.

Gabriele Meucci, the current EULEX Head of Mission, said in an interview on the ‘Jeta ne Kosove’ talk show on Thursday night that he thinks the EU mission acted properly in removing her.

“She was suspended legally and with basis, just like the Jacque report states,” said Meucci.

“At the time of her suspension, the documents that had been leaked to the press came from her office and pertained to an ongoing investigation, something which shouldn’t be shared with the public,” he said.

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