BIRN research reveals that a recent official report – listing persons who have usurped state land – mysteriously fails to mention those with connections in high places.
|Kosovo assembly chairman and DPK official, Kadri Veseli, called for all usurped property and alldged squaters’ names to become public | Photo: BIRN|
The Privatisation Agency of Kosovo, PAK, which owns and manages non-municipal public property, recently published a list of usurped public property along with the names of individuals or institutions that have taken illegal possession of these assets.
The list of 170 alleged usurpers includes municipalities and religious institutions but fails to mention a number of high-ranking officials and politicians, BIRN research shows.
Kadri Veseli, chairman of the assembly and a senior official of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, DPK, urged the agency in January to publish a list of all usurped public property and the squatters responsible.
“We agreed that the PAK will publish all the names of usurpers of state assets within two weeks… [and] I am urging the judiciary to take action against these usurpers,” Veseli said.
PAK eventually published the list on February 15, but BIRN research has uncovered that several DPK officials did not make it onto the list, including some who have been penalised by the courts for such offences.
BIRN asked PAK on February 24 to explain why some cases were omitted from the list, but so far no reply has been received.
BIRN found out that, for example, Blerim Imeri, director of public services in the municipality of Vushtrri, built a house on the property of the state-owned company Elan and was later fined 10,000 euros for this. His name does not appear on the usurpers’ list, however.
Imeri is a DPK official, the same party to which Veseli, who called for the list to become public, belongs.
Veseli’s aides told BIRN that they did not interfere in the compilation of the list, which was PAK’s independent work.
“Veseli absolutely did not ask for anybody’s name to be taken out. On the contrary, he has made repeated calls for all usurpers’ names to be made public… the rest is speculation,” Blerim Latifi, an adviser to Veseli, told BIRN.
Imeri, who is still paying off the fine, meanwhile complained that he had been selectively punished.
“There are 46 hectares of usurped land in Vushtrri but I am the only one to have been held accountable,” he told BIRN.
Imeri also claimed that the previous director of Elan, Tahir Tahiri, took him to court for his own personal interests.
Tahiri denies that personal reasons played any role in the matter but also says that usurpers of state property close to the circles in power have not made it onto the PAK list.
“I have seen the list, and only persons with no influence have been included on it, while those who are close to the ruling DPK party, people such as Gani Imeri, are not there,” Tahiri told BIRN.
BIRN found out that two DPK offices in the cities of Gjakove and Decan are registered as public property even though the party had no legal contract with PAK to do this, which has meanwhile not included either property in the list of usurped assets.
DPK secretary Basri Musmurati told BIRN that the party’s headquarters have no responsibility for the matters belonging to the two local branches because they “manage those offices by themselves”.
PAK’s published list also contains a number of non-clarified instances and unspecified usurpers. The agency accuses “unknown inhabitants of Tesernik village” of having usurped public property, for example.
The agency says 250 hectares have been illegally seized in the village of Zabel i Ulet, but only one name, that of Xhevat Ibrahimi, a farmer, has made it onto the list.
Ibrahimi said he has a contract with the state-owned company to use his plot.
“They didn’t dare to publish the names of the big usurpers, those who have sold the whole of Kosovo, but they got me, a simple farmer,” Ibrahimi told BIRN.