MARJO BRAKA

The Democratic Party MP and, concurrently, Chair of the National Council of European Integration, Ms Jorida Tabaku accused, in three different statements, that money laundering along with the “Fiscal Amnesty” announced initiative are gravely undermining Albania’s integration in the European Union. Based on European Parliament and Council as well as on expert’s arguments, “Faktoje” has verified such claims.

 

“One of the 15 EU conditions for holding the first intergovernmental conference and to officially open the final integration process is the fight against money laundering. Meanwhile, Albania is currently on the Moneyval grey list and is considered as one of the main money-laundering countries. Such phenomenon hinders any effort of Albanians to integrate the country into the EU.” – argued the Democratic Party MP and Chair of the National Council of European Integration Mrs. Jorida Tabaku, at the “Progress of the fight against organized crime and implementation of European Commission Recommendation in the 2021 Report for Albania” meeting held on May 11.

Two weeks later, Mrs. Tabaku reaffirmed her claims in an interview: given for the “31 Minuta” show on A2CNN stating:

“Launching of the first governmental conference does not mean beginning of negotiations. One of these preconditions is money laundering. Money laundering and Albania’s strike off from Moneyval grey list, and Basel Institute evaluation are the two key elements linked to the first intergovernmental conference holding and concurrently with the start of negotiations and talks”.

Earlier, on April 21, following the European Parliament’s resolution publication, Jorida Tabaku warned about the government initiative that could hinder Albania’s path towards the EU integration.

Fiscal amnesty should not be implemented. It will seriously affect EU Integration as it’s related to criminal amnesty”: – said Mrs. Tabaku.

To begin with, the MP’s assertion that “fight” against money laundering is one of the conditions imposed on Albania to advance towards European Union is true, as already verified by Faktoje.

Such finding is also emphasized in European Parliament document expressly stating:

Underlines the importance of taking decisive action against money laundering through initiative-taking investigation,” – was stated in the document.

Former Prosecutor and Former Representative of Albania in Moneyval, Mr. Besnik Muçi also brings a case reinforcing the importance of the fight against money laundering.

“In October 2020, the European Parliament added two questions to the European Union Enlargement Commission about Albania. How does the Commission justify the decision to open negotiations with Albania, in view of its presence on the MONEYVAL ‘grey list’ and what steps will the Commission take regarding Albania if the latter is still on the ‘grey list’? – these are the two questions.” – said Muçi.

Similarly argued even by the Former Deputy Minister of Justice, Ms Brikena Kasmi.

It is clear that European Union Integration entails some criteria and standards which must be achieved in all sectors. Sectors are the focal point of FATF and the European Union applying the same standards and criteria. Observed deficiencies in the legislative and law-enforcement plans for money laundering and terrorism issues show, among others, that this grey-listed country does not meet the standards required by the European Union. It is an indirect assessment system for this country’s capacity to integrate into the European family.”

Responding to “Faktoje’s” interest, Kasmi hereby emphasizes:

According to an observation over years of the ‘Grey list,’ there are no countries with strong EU membership tendencies or EU members to have been included within it. Therefore, no member country has showed any gaps; meanwhile, countries, like Albania, have shown lack of sustainability. The observation clearly states that our country, despite being stricken off and on the grey list, still needs continuous improvements at the legislative and law-enforcement level in fiscal, justice, construction, and technological sectors.”

“Faktoje” sent a request for information to the General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering asking about the reasons lying behind the country’s listing for third year on the ‘grey list’ of countries with substantial risk of money laundering.

“It is worth noting that due to a series of challenges brought by the global Covid-19 pandemic to the world level including Albania, postponing the deadlines of the agreed action plan for 2020-2021 was deemed reasonable both for the evaluation experts and for the Albanian institutions, thus showing the reason we keep being on the grey list. However, it should be noted that Albania has fulfilled all the action plan points which makes us confident of receiving a positive assessment within 2022”, was stated in the response to Faktoje.

And, if the pandemic is to blame for still standing on the ‘grey list’, Faktoje’s question of why level of money seizures and confiscations has decreased from year to year. GDPML replied as follows:

“If you are referring to the statistics of temporary blocking orders issued by GDPML, they are generated because of well-defined elements of the law and orders are issued only when we become aware of a transaction in process for which ‘there are reasons based on concrete facts and circumstances for money laundering and terrorism financing’. These orders cannot be statistically compared as they are generated due to specific elements which vary as of years.’

“Faktoje” also consulted experts regarding the statement of the Democratic Party MP and Chair of the National Council for European Integration, Mr. Jorida Tabaku about “fiscal amnesty” blocking the country’s integration process.

“The fiscal amnesty works contrariwise the Albania’s commitments towards European Union in the framework of preventing money laundering and potential financing of terrorism”. – argues the Former Prosecutor Muçi.

Former Deputy Minister of Justice, Ms Brikena Kasmi says that “Fiscal Amnesty” approval is also spurred and can worsen the country’s position in terms of money laundering.

“Fiscal amnesty comprises an exception to the general rule. By principle, amnesty is a mechanism occasionally used in various fields and sectors by governments aiming to help citizens and state control mechanisms; it is a form of policy regulation not well implemented over the years – a steering mechanism. To apply the exception to the rule, it must be ensured that the misapplied phenomenon shall not happen again. In this present case, by evidencing of a series of gaps in the fight against money laundering and terrorism issues, amnesty can create premises and risks paving the way to criminal activities and methods of money laundering or, even more dangerously, to terrorism.” – argues Kasmi.

“Fiscal amnesty” has previously been opposed by the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

Last year, the General Prosecutor’s Office data showed 301 criminal proceedings of money laundering, compared to 286 in 2020.

During a National Council of European Integration meeting held on 18 May, the General Prosecutor, Olsian Çela added that 56 people are taken as defendants, 33 were sent to trial and only 21 are convinced.

The General Prosecutor, Mr. Çela seemed dissatisfied of the figures when saying:

“As it seems, there are improvements. However, there is room for greater improvements than those achieved so far and there is still a lot to improve in this direction and it will remain one of our objectives for the following year.”

“Koka”, “Taçi” and “Prifti” are some of the last investigated cases for money laundering in the country. Former Minister of Environment, Lefter Koka, the businessperson Rezart Taçi and cardiologist, Edvin Prifti are accused of money laundering of millions of euros.

“As it seems, there are improvements. However, there is room for greater improvements

than those achieved so far and there is still a lot to improve in this direction

and it will remain one of our objectives for the following year.

Following two claims’ verification within European Parliament and European Council documents and consultations with field experts, we shall hereby categorize the statements of Democratic Party MP and Chair of the National Council for European Integration, Ms Jorida Tabaku as “True”.