Kosovo’s parliament has adopted a law on the establishment of the Bureau for Verification and Confiscation of Unjustified Assets, representing a substantial step forward toward carrying out the election campaign promises of the ruling Vetevendosje Movement.
“Wealth that is unverifiable is also unjustifiable. Confiscation of such wealth is compensation to the people and contributes to fighting poverty and inequality,” posted Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti following the decision.
The unjustified assets law will not come into force before it is first promulgated by the President and published in Kosovo’s Official Gazette.
While the move to tackle corruption has been well-received, civil society groups and the opposition have expressed criticism of the law, claiming it does not deliver adequate mechanisms to ensure the institution is unbiased and apolitical.
The Democratic Institute of Kosovo (KDI), an arm of Transparency International in Kosovo, says the new law does not protect the bureau from political interference, and that its decision making processes are limited. This argument was backed by the Venice Commission last year.
Vullnet Bugaqku, senior researcher at KDI, told reporters that the law will see a division created within the Pristina Basic Court to deal specifically with these cases.
“Such a conception, of the resolution of these cases only in the Pristina Basic Court, increases the risk that the trials for these cases will last for years and that court procedures will be prolonged, because this court is already extremely burdened with cases,” Bugaqku said.
Bugaqku added that the Pristina Basic Court “does not have the competence to try cases of civil confiscation [which will be under the jurisdiction of this bureau] but only criminal confiscation” under Kosovo’s existing law on courts.
Under the unjustified assets law, a mechanism will be created for verifying the assets of public officials, as well as their family members and third parties, namely individuals suspected of having received a transfer of assets from public officials in question.
The law will be applied to unjustified wealth acquired after 17 February 2008, and/or within ten years of the day the official in question left office.
The new Bureau will begin asset confiscation procedures based on information collected from Kosovo institutions and from abroad, individuals in public positions, as well as other individuals.
Where there is discrepancy between income and property exceeding 25,000 euros, the Bureau will send the case to court for further investigation and possible asset confiscation.
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