Albanian premier asked to give evidence on 'assassination plot'

By bne IntelliNews March 6, 2015

Clare Nuttall in Bucharest -

 

Albania’s Prosecutor for Serious Crimes has formally requested that Prime Minister Edi Rama and other top officials make statements in an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against the country’s richest MP Tom Doshi.

The scandal has dominated political debate in Albania since Doshi went public with his allegations on March 2, once again throwing the spotlight onto Albania’s struggle against corruption and organised crime.

Doshi says he and fellow MP Mhill Fufi were the targets of a alleged assassination plot, and has accused parliament speaker Ilir Meta of being behind the attempts.

The Prosecutor for Serious Crimes opened an attempted murder investigation on March 5 after questioning Doshi over the allegations, a statement from the General Prosecutor’s office says.

Local media report that Doshi handed over a video to prosecutors in which a man appears to confess to plotting to kill both Doshi and Fufi. The video, in Albanian, is posted on Doshi’s Facebook page.

Both Rama and Ilir have been asked to submit statements on March 6, along with Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, two MPs and the former head of the Prosecutor for Serious Crimes, the Albania General Prosecutor’s Office said on March 5.

Opposition MP Sali Berisha, who previously served as president and prime minister of Albania, has also been asked to make a statement following comments made during a parliament session on March 5, which prosecutors say may be useful for the investigation.

Discussions of the allegations, which involve senior members of both Rama’s Socialists and the opposition Democratic Party, resulted in an explosive session in parliament on March 5.

Berisha told Meta that he should resign from his position as parliament speaker immediately. “This is the biggest accusation in the history of the Albanian parliament,” Berisha told the parliament, according to Albanian broadcaster Top Channel. Meta responded that he was ready to face a confidence vote.

Democratic Party MPs then surrounded the podium, preventing the parliamentary session from continuing.

statement from the OSCE Presence in Albania issued after the session expressed disappointment with the “deterioration of the political debate in recent days".

“We urge all politicians to refrain from inflammatory language and actions and to allow the country’s institutions to function in the best interest of Albania’s citizens.”

Rama, who expelled Doshi from the Socialist Party’s parliamentary faction on March 2, dismissed the discussion as a “farce”.

Doshi, who represents the north Albanian town of Shkoder, is one of the country’s most controversial MPs. He was singled out in leaked US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks as one of Albania’s MPs suspected to have links to organised crime. He is also believed to be the country’s richest MP, with a fortune estimated at around $15mn. The 2008 US Department Human Rights Report on Albania wrote that Doshi assaulted Balkan Insight journalist Besar Likmeta during a pre-arranged meeting.

The US embassy in Tirana responded to the news of Doshi’s expulsion from the Socialist Party with a statement that the US “welcomes the decision of the Socialist Party of Albania to expel Mr Tom Doshi, who is alleged to be involved in criminal activities".

Albania is one of Europe's most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International, which ranked the country 110th on its 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, on a par with Kosovo and ahead of only Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. In 2014, Albania was given EU candidate status, but EU foreign ministers warned it would only progress towards membership if progress was made in fighting corruption and organised crime.

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