Kosovo politicians refuse to reveal sources of wealth

PRIŠTINA -- The richest candidate in the Kosovo elections will be President of the New Kosovo Alliance Behgjet Pacolli.

Kosovo prepares for elections (FoNet)
Kosovo prepares for elections (FoNet)

He has declared property worth EUR 420mn to the Central Electoral Commission in Kosovo alone. Of all the party leaders, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu came bottom on EUR 250,000.

The politicians generally put their wealth down to presents from wealthy associates, director of the NGO COHI Avni Zogiani told B92.

In Kosovo, it is common for politicians to live in houses costing EUR 5mn, says Zogiani.

The director of the NGO, which deals with the study of corruption, told B92 that the organization had been trying for some time to uncover the source of Kosovo politicians’ money.

“A year and a half ago, the Kosovo Anti-Corruption Agency was formed. We are applying pressure, but we always get the same answer. They claim that by law they are not permitted to reveal information concerning the sources of their wealth."

"We disagree. There’s not a single sentence in the law which prohibits them from doing so. On the contrary, there is a Law on Information of Public Importance, which explicitly stipulates that independent agencies are obliged to publish information of public interest,” he says.

Zogiani says that the agency controls politicians, “who, at the same time, are corrupt and mixed up in organized crime.”

He adds that, “When we ask politicians about where they acquired such riches, they usually reply that they received it from old friends, or that supporters built their houses for free. However, everyone knows that the authorities are corrupt, that politics is linked to organized crime.”

“Everyone knows that their money comes from crime, or from directly manipulating state funds. Because of the current situation, Kosovo’s unresolved status, it’s hard to determine the origin of certain people’s wealth."

"I think that everything will come to light once status has been settled, and I think a lot of information has been collected on how they made that money,” he predicted.

Other than Pacolli and Sejdiu, the remaining candidates have also declared their property. Reform Party leader Ora Veton Surroi declared property totaling EUR 2.5mn.

Prior to the 2004 elections he declared EUR 40mn, while it is known that in the meantime he has transferred ownership over his Koha Ditore company to his sister.

Hague accused and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party leader Ramus Haradinaj declared EUR 1.3mn worth of property, while Democratic League of Dardania leader Nexhat Daci and Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Hashim Taci are worth EUR 300,000 each.

Kosovo politicians are not legally bound to declare the source of their property. However, some things are widely known. Kosovo’s richest politician, Pacolli, is the equivalent of Bogoljub Karić or Milan Panić, weekly Vreme correspondent Dejan Anastasijević told B92.

“The man owns a company in Switzerland which has done a lot of work with the Russians, particularly during the Yeltsin years. At one point, Carla del Ponte, while still a prosecutor in Switzerland, investigated him, and tried to prosecute him for laundering Russian money. It is presumed that the bulk of his wealth comes from those dealings in Russia,” explains Anastasijević.

Neither have there been any surprises concerning the wealth of the other candidates, says the journalist. “There’s no big mystery concerning Haradinaj, for example. Everone knows he’s the wealthiest man in Kosovo after Pacolli and Ekrem Luka, Haradinaj’s great friend and one of his party’s main donors."

"As to the others, it’s a well known fact that after the ’liberation’ of Kosovo, that is the withdrawal of Serb forces, all the leading KLA commanders immediately ’liberated’ the most attractive business premises and cafes in Priština,” Anastasijević alleges.