The tax investigator who revealed a large scale tax evasion scheme in the Tax Administration should be heeded, says EULEX’s Alan Andrews.
Alan Edwards, the Chief of Organized Crime Investigation Unit of the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, believes that the whistleblower Murat Mehmeti, who exposed a tax fraud scheme last night on Jeta ne Kosove, should be protected.
Mehmeti, a tax inspector for the Kosovo Tax Administration, KTA, revealed for the Jeta ne Kosove television program that between 2009 and 2012, there was “a large industrial scale” tax fraud in the Kosovo Tax Administration, KTA, and both the KTA and the Special Prosecution failed to address it properly. Over 300 Kosovar businesses used four shell companies to claim larger expenses and deduct their tax returns.
Mehmeti suspects that the damages add up to millions of euros. The four shell companies are owned by destitute people who are currently on trial. Since Mehmeti’s investigation, only 23 companies have paid their indebted taxes to the KTA, which amount to 2.2 million euros.
Mehmeti decided to make his investigation public after the prosecution failed to charge any of the real companies for tax evasion or money laundering.
Edwards, who first met Mehmeti in 2013, agrees that going only after the shell companies is not enough.
“From what Murat told me and from what I’ve seen, I would say that there are certain, quite powerful groups behind a number of these companies, and they want to protect themselves and protect their own money. Now, that’s not unusual in any country, but the scale of it is more unusual here than I’ve seen anywhere else,” says Edwards, who calls the scheme involving many petrol companies an “organized tax evasion.”
Mehmeti’s efforts to bring the case to court were obstructed by his superiors at the KTA, who transferred him or tried to promote him. He was also threatened anonymously.
Edwards maintains that whistleblowers such as Mehmeti need to be protected.
“I believe that he should be listened to and that he should be protected… If the police are allowed to do their job, and if the prosecutors are brave enough to face certain people here and certain big companies, then Kosovo will grow. It is important that people like Murat and others in other departments and agencies stand up.”
Kosovo has a bad track record in protecting whistleblowers. In the past, public officials have lost their jobs, while a ProCredit bank employee was fined 5,000 euros for exposing corruption of a municipality official in Prizren.
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