Etem Arifi (standing). Photo:

Arrest warrant issued against MP convicted of fraud

The Basic Court of Prishtina has issued an arrest warrant against MP Etem Arifi, who must now serve a 15-month sentence following a conviction for fraud in 2018.

The Basic Court of Prishtina has issued an arrest warrant against MP Etem Arifi, ordering his remand in a detention centre to serve a prison sentence of one year and three months. Arifi, a representative of the Ashkali Party for Integration, was convicted of fraud by the court in April 2018.

Arifi and his co-defendant Bajram Gashi were initially each handed down a two year suspended sentence, but a successful appeal by the Special Prosecution led to prison sentences for both men.

The MP had been due to appear at the detention centre to serve his sentence on 9 March this year. However, his poor health meant that the court twice postponed the beginning of his sentence by two months.

On 24 June, the Prishtina court dismissed a third request for postponement of the sentence as inadmissible. Arifi appealed the decision, but it was rejected by the Court of Appeals as “unfounded” on 1 July.

Mirlinda Gashi, a spokesperson for the Basic Court of Prishtina, told BIRN that with the appeal court’s decision, the verdict of the basic court has become final. 

“After receiving the decision, Etem Arifi had to report to the Centre to serve a prison sentence,” she said. “Therefore, the Court has issued an order for detention, arrest and transfer to the centre to serve the sentence.”

Arifi and Gashi, who is the director of the Ashkali Voice NGO, were accused of embezzling nearly 26,000 euros. According to the indictment filed by the prosecution, the two men received subsidies from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to provide for Kosovo’s Ashkali and Egyptian communities, and funds from the Office of the Minister for Integration that were allocated for celebrating the Ashkali flag day. 

The indictment alleges that Arifi and Gashi did not use the funds for these purposes, but rather appropriated them for themselves and other people. Arifi was also accused of exerting influence on officials at the labour ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister to provide funds to NGOs that he knew were fictitious. 

In June, Vetevendosje submitted a case to the Constitutional Court, questioning the constitutionality of Arifi’s vote in favour of the formation of the current Kosovo Government led by Avdullah Hoti, which passed by a single vote.

According to the party, Arifi’s vote is invalid as both the Constitution and the Assembly’s own Rules of Procedure bar sitting MPs from holding a criminal conviction of one year or more.     

“Alongside evidence that clearly proves that Mr. Etem Arifi was sentenced with a final verdict, as a result losing his mandate as an MP, today, some Vetevendosje MPs have submitted to the Constitutional Court the request for the unconstitutionality of the participation and voting of Mr. Arifi, which makes the decision of the Assembly of Kosovo invalid and unconstitutional,” the party stated upon submitting the complaint.

04/08/2020 - 14:52

04 August 2020 - 14:52

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.