‘Friends in high places’ allow convicted Albanian dealer to go home


An Albanian politician who faces 40 years in prison on drug convictions in Italy was arrested on 9 April in his country, but in the meantime has been able to get house arrest without police supervision. Commission sources expressed regret for this lax treatment, but said the EU executive could not comment court decisions. 

Fatmir Kajolli, a municipal counsellor, was placed under house arrest with no police supervision after being briefly jailed on 9 April.

Some newspapers in Albania reported that the former defence minister had "friends in high places" who had ensured the lax court decision.

Kajolli, 47, has been sentenced by courts in Rome and Milan respectively to 24 and 16 years in prison for drug trafficking and involvement in criminal organisations. He has been declared internationally wanted for a decade.

Since the drug trafficking convictions in Italy, Kajolli has undertaken many activities as politician and businessman and it is unclear why his arrest took so long.

The European Commission doesn't comment on court decisions, but it appears that the handling  of the Kajolii case is watched with utmost attention and its outcome would impact on EU-Albanian relations, EURACTIV has learned.

The Ministry of Interior and the General Prosecutor’s Office have traded blame for Kajolli’s delayed arrest. Prosecutors sought arrest in prison pending extradition.

Several media and members of the opposition say that Kajolli is a businessman known to have close ties to the Minister of Environment and Republican Party leader Fatmir Mediu and other government officials. In a brief statement for Gazeta Shqiptare, Mediu said he refused to respond to such “unfounded” and “made up” allegations.

Courts in some Balkan countries occasionally take the liberty to confine suspects or dangerous criminals to house arrest, and they soon disappear abroad.

As bribes and political pressure often render justice inefficient in several EU hopefuls, the European Commission recently decided to start with chapters 23 and 24 – "Judiciary and fundamental rights" and "Justice, freedom and security" – from an early stage of the accession negotiations.

Montenegro is the only Western Balkan country close to opening EU accession negotiations in the next few months.

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