Corruption File: How 150,000 Euros was Paid to Sway Court Verdict

After publication of BIRN’s two-year investigation – which shows how 150,000 euros was paid to influence a court case – the Special Prosecutor’s Office has started investigations and the Justice Minister has demanded arrests

Over two hours of audio and video recordings from a series of meetings filmed by a BIRN investigation has revealed the efforts made to influence the decisions of courts in Kosovo.

In a case concerning businessman Salih Dakaj, former chief prosecutor of the Court of Appeal Haxhi Dërguti is seen in the recordings attempting to obtain cash through promises that he will talk to the judges and persuade them to decide in Dakaj’s favor. 

“Give priority to this process, give money, otherwise this work will not be done,” Dërguti tells businessman Dakaj.

Dakaj agreed to let KallxoPërnime film the meetings in order to show how he gave money in return for promises that the case would be resolved, and how he sat in the meeting at that time with Dërguti.

After the investigation was published, the Special Prosecutor’s Office announced on Wednesday that it had started investigations into all persons involved in the case.

“The Special Prosecutor’s Office … has analyzed all the data transmitted in this media investigation and will take all the necessary investigative actions in accordance with its legal and constitutional powers for all the persons involved in this case,” it announced.

Dakaj claims he gave the former prosecutor 150,000 euros so that the case about enforcement of a debt of 3.5 million euros was returned in his favor. He said he was asked for a total of 300,000 euros.

“I have a case in the Court of Prishtina, a debt enforcement with the company ExCom, and while I was waiting for the ruling, Liridon Fandaj came to me and told me that a friend of his, Hasan Morina, has a connection in the prosecutor’s office, Haxhi Dërguti, the chief prosecutor of the Appeal Court, and if I’d agree to pay 300,000 euros, the case will be returned in my favor, otherwise I’d lose the case,” he told KallxoPërnime.

ExCom is in dispute with Dakaj’s company, in some cases sued by Dakaj and in others also as a plaintiff. Dakaj says the company owes him money because they had not completed work on a multi-storey building which they had contracted to complete.

Dakaj says he borrowed 150,000 euros to give to businessman Hasan Morina, to be given to former prosecutor Dërguti. The meeting with Morina was mediated by Liridon Fandaj, former head of the Vetëvendosje assembly in Suharekë.

“Seeing that the case was not being completed, I was forced to pay 150,000 euros, which I gave to Hasan Morina, who together with Liridon Fandaj, took it to Dërguti’s home,” he added.

Dakaj has shown that, even though he had received promises, the enforcement procedure case had still not yet been completed and had gone to the contentious stage to be considered in the Court of Commercial Affairs. After finding this out, he started meetings and demanded accountability from Dërguti, Morina and Fandaj.

After the case was referred to this court, Dakaj met Morina and Fandaj in a cafe in Prishtina. As can be seen in the video recording, Dakaj demanded the return of his money.

BIRN tried to meet Morina, as the intermediary who took the money from Dakaj and gave it to Dërguti. He initially promised to meet but then never answered the phone.

Dërguti admitted to KallxoPërnime that he met one of the judges mentioned in the recordings made in the conversations between him and Dakaj. But the judges have denied having met Dërguti to discuss the case.

The intermediary denied having received any money but did not deny that he met Dakaj and told him to take it into account, to speed up the case. 

“Occasionally I met Latif Xhemajli in the Court Office and I asked him if there was any possibility to speed up this procedure … [but] only on the basis of the law. Later, I did not deal with the business. After a while, they told me that they made a decision and your [Dakaj’s] request was rejected, I told him that it is the work of the court; you have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal,” said Derguti.

But judge Latif Xhemajli denies that he ever spoke about the case with Dërguti.

Besides judge Xhemajli, during Dakaj’s meeting with Dërguti, the latter promised to meet two other judges of the Basic Court, Murat Paqarada and Ramush Bradiqi.

Paqarada has also denied meeting Dërguti, while judge Bradiqi has refused to discuss the claim. Appeal judge Faton Ademi was also mentioned in the meeting. Both denied that they met to talk about the subject.

In the video recordings transmitted by BIRN, Dërguti is seen warning Dakaj about the gravity of the issue, and that he is dealing with “powerful men”.

“Salih, you don’t know who you are dealing with. They are the most powerful people in Kosovo. Do you know this, Salih? Do you know how much of a hard time we had with this case? One day we would say we are done with this, the next day the words changed. Within the night, things would change,” Derguti is heard in the video, telling Dakaj. 

Was former chief state prosecutor involved?

“This case, I suspect, was finished with the interference of chief state prosecutor Aleklander Lumezi, who is a family friend of the other party in the case,” said Dakaj. 

“This explains why a case of enforcement procedure that usually takes two to three months to solve has been delayed for three/four years,” he added.

Former chief state prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi has told BIRN he denies any involvement with the case.

Another worrying finding of the investigation is when Dakaj met Dërguti, Dërguti told him that for three months his phone was intercepted by police, for another court case, and therefore he could not talk. This information was allegedly given to Dërguti from someone inside the police.

“I still believe in justice and want this case to be solved to the end. These people should be sent before justice institutions because I am not the first or the last victim of these people. They for sure have done similar things with other people and other businesses and consider the court as their own shop,” Dakaj said. 

Immediately after publication of the investigation, the Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, on Facebook called for arrests.

“Haxhi Dërguti, former chief prosecutor of Appeal and the judges, but also every person involved in the scandal published by, must be arrested immediately. These phenomena that have been known for a long time we are seeing today and hearing,” wrote Haxhiu.

Valdet Salihu, Durim Shala and Naser Fejza contributed to this two-year-long investigation.

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