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Mayors confronting SPAK

In four years of SPAK’s operation, where the majority of cases involve the investigation of corrupt officials, mayors have emerged as central figures in tender abuse. 6 out of 12 mayors have been investigated and some have been convicted of abuse of power, while the value of the abusive tenders amounts to nearly 380 million new ALL. This includes in kind consequences such as the destruction of forest or roads funds, as in the Fushë Arrëz case. Investigations have revealed similar schemes, with fictitious awardees of public tenders, while the money ends up in the hands of mayors’ close associates. According to legal experts, corruption at the local level is more easily identifiable and more nepotistic, making local government the primary target of corruption investigations.

Ermal Vija

In summer 2021, after a year-long investigation, the Special Prosecution Against Crime and Corruption issued an arrest warrant for Fatos Tushe, the Mayor of Lushnje, who had held the position since 2011. Tushe, along with several associates, was investigated for almost a year and was caught in the investigators’ wiretapping network.

He was subsequently judged and found guilty by two levels of the judiciary for abusing tenders in the municipality and for misconduct of power. These accusations were related to building permits and the management of funds of Lushnje Municipality. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the tender was awarded in violation of regulations, favoring one company. The tender for the rehabilitation of a drainage channel amounted to 23 million ALL.

Tushe’s arrest was one of the initial significant actions of the Special Prosecution since its establishment in December 2019. Following his arrest, a significant number of local government officials came under SPAK’s scrutiny, and some were subsequently arrested. Over the course of 4 years, prosecutors reviewed 65 cases involving mayors and former mayors suspected of tender abuse, making false statements in the decriminalization form, or suspicions of vote buying (considered an electoral crime).

Investigations have concluded for 12 officials, with only 1 having the investigation suspended.

These data indicate that among the high-ranking officials whom SPAK is competent to investigate, Mayors are the most frequently investigated. This trend is further supported by the Special Prosecution’s annual report for 2023. The same trend was observed during 2022.

Are Mayors the most corrupt officials in the state?

Lawyer Redi Ramaj illustrates with two arguments why Mayors are the officials most investigated by SPAK.

‘The first reason is that corruption at the local government level is more pervasive, more nepotistic, and the staff’s professionalism is weaker. The second reason is that political support for Mayors is limited and they are not well-protected, as it is believed that the damage caused by their removal does not affect central politics,’ says Ramaj to Faktoje.

6 out of the 12 Mayors and former mayors investigated during these years have been accused, and some have been convicted, of abusing tender funds or causing damage through their actions.

Only in the case of the Mayor of Fushë-Arrëz, Fran Tuci, does the environmental damage, namely the deforestation and road opening, amount to 234 million ALL.

For the former Mayor of Fushë Arrëz, investigators reveal that by allowing the construction and opening of a new road segment approximately 1.8 km long and 5 m wide, he damaged a significant area of the forest fund owned by the Municipality and severely harmed the terrain belonging to this fund.

‘The damage estimated by IKMT Shkodër, after the inspection carried out in field, amounts to 234,007,500 ALL, which includes the damage to the terrain and the exploitation of the area registered near ASHK, Puka Local Directorate, as property of the ‘Forest’ type owned by Municipality of Fushë-Arrëz,’ SPAK writes in the official clarification for this case. Former Mayor Fran Tuci has been sentenced by the judiciary for the charge of ‘Abuse of power’.

From an analysis of official data published by the Special Prosecution in recent years, Faktoje has calculated that the total value of tenders awarded in violation of the law to close associates of Mayors amounts to 378,551,341 million ALL.

SPAK has identified the same scheme being used by different Mayors to award tenders to ‘their people’. According to this scheme, the tender is fictitiously awarded to one company, while the actual work is carried out by another entity. This is how the scheme operated in the case the Mayor of Lushnje Fatos Tushe, according to SPAK.

Similar budget damages have been caused in the case of the Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako, through abuse of power. According to investigations, he allowed the transfer of funds to the private company that won the tender for the restoration of the coastal line, even though it was miscalculated by the evaluation committee members. The Supreme State Audit notified the Municipality of this fact.

SPAK states that the tender value was multiplied due to the calculation error, and the full amount was reimbursed to the company, resulting in a damage of 18 million new ALL.

Former Mayor of Patos, currently suspended, Rajmonda Balilaj, is accused of violating equality in tenders and pre-determining winners in at least two cases. The tenders are estimated to be worth from 6.7 million to 8.6 million ALL.

The largest abuse figure is that of the water supply construction tender in Bulqiza, for which former Mayor Lefter Alla was found guilty of ‘Violating equality in tenders’ and ‘Abuse of power’, for which he was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

According to SPAK, Alla and his associates favored two companies in this tender, while the actual work on the ground was carried out by a third company, whose administrator had social ties to the Mayor.

Wiretaps conducted during the investigations confirmed this connection and served as evidence in the hands of SPAK of the influence Alla exerted in awarding this tender to his preferred bidder. Tuci has already been sentenced by the judiciary for the charge of ‘Abuse of power’.

Eduart Kapri, former Mayor of Progradec, continues his battle with the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which accuses him of ‘Violating equality in tenders’ and ‘Abuse of power’.

He is suspected, in collaboration with some of his associates, of illegally awarding a tender worth 9 million ALL for the purchase of timber. Kapri was acquitted in the First Instance Court, but the Appeals Court referred the case back for further investigation.

Decriminalization, another ‘trap’ for Mayors

Not only tenders, but also decriminalization and votes ‘burned’ Mayors.

Qerim Ismailaj, former Mayor of Mallakastra, was the first to be investigated by the Special Prosecution on suspicion of falsifying the decriminalization form.

During the investigation, a confirmation was administered through a letter post that Ismailaj had been convicted in Greece for group assault.

After this confirmation, at the request of the prosecution, the sentence was converted to community service, thus clearing the criminal record.

Ismailaj was never dismissed from his position for this reason.

SPAK has sent to court for the same charge the Mayor of Kuçova, Kreshnik Hajdari. He also appears to have not declared in the decriminalization form before running for mayor whether he has ever been convicted or not.

Justice revealed that Hajdari had concealed a conviction in Greece for illegal border crossing.

The mayor of Rrogozhinë, Edison Memolla, has been sent to court for vote buying after being recorded promising a citizen that they would not cut off her electricity before the elections.

The Special Court has sentenced two other former Mayors, Safet Gjici, for ‘Abuse of Power’ after a video was published on social networks showing him engaging in a sexual act in his office, and former Mayor Fran Frrokaj, who was found guilty of abuse of office for favoring the transfer of ownership of several properties in the coastal area of ‘Rana e Hedhun’.

Former Mayor of Himarë, Jorgo Goro, is in custody for property alienation. According to SPAK, he allowed and acted against the law in handling two properties in Gjilekë of Dhërmi.

Goro is accused of ‘Abuse of power’ in at least two cases, in collaboration with one of his associates.

Currently, the Special Prosecution is verifying 18 cases involving Mayors and former Mayors for which a final decision has not yet been made.


In the last 4 years, local government leaders have topped the list of those investigated by the Special Prosecution against Crime and Corruption. The main allegations include abuse of office and misuse of public tenders, leading to hundreds of millions of LEK in damages to the state budget and falsification of decriminalization documents.

Investigations have revealed a similar pattern of tender abuse, with fictitious winners being declared while the money ends up in the ‘social circle’ of Mayors.

Experts point to two main reasons why Mayors and officials at the local level are at the forefront of SPAK investigations: the perceived ease of identifying and nepotism in local-level corruption compared to the executive branch, and the lower level of professionalism among staff in these local administrations.



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