Albania’s Central Electoral Commission has stripped two parliamentary deputies of their seats for failing to disclose that they have criminal records. Aqif Rakipi of the Justice, Unity and Integration party, was discovered to have a conviction in Italy dating back to the 1990s for receiving stolen property under the name Skender Ejylbegaj. The other MP, Gledjon Rehovica, of the opposition Socialist Movement for Integration, was also found to have been convicted in Italy in the 90s, in his case for theft, under the name Kusta Mina.
In an effort to clean up Albanian politics as the country moves closer to European Union membership, the government passed the “decriminalisation’ law in 2015 which bars people convicted of serious crimes from holding political office or working in the civil service.Prosecutors uncovered Rakipi and Rehovica’s criminal past when they cross checked the politician’s fingerprints with the Interpol database and they matched with the fake names under which they had been arrested in Italy.
Before entering parliament Rakipi had worked as a businessman in the mining sector and Rehovica had been employed as a director in a number of state-owned enterprises. Both men have denied the having criminal convictions and have the right to appeal the Commission’s ruling.
The removal of the two politicians brings to seven the number of legislators who have been either fired or forced to resign since the decriminalisation law came into place two years ago. Their seats in parliament will now be taken by other candidates from their respective parties.
In other news relating to Albania’s anti-corruption effort three judges from the Durres Court of Appeals are being investigated for abuse of office and corruption. The Prosecutor’s Office for serious crimes asked the Superior Justice Council to suspend judges Petrit Ceno, Petraq Dhimitri and Klinton Spahiu on suspicion of taking trips abroad that were paid for by businessmen involved in court cases.
In one instance the three judges were taken to Spain to watch the Real Madrid play Barcelona in football on a trip paid for by the businessman Namik Sadiku, who is currently under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office for serious crimes.