Former Environment Minister Lefter Koka was arrested on corruption charges related to waste incinerator contracts, drawing praise from the US ambassador to Tirana, who said it shows Albania’s judicial reform is getting results.
Albanian PM Edi Rama [Centre right] and former Environment Minister Lefter Koka [Centre left] at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a waste plant in Elbasani. Photo: Edi Rama’s Facebook profile.
Lefter Koka, a former minister and MP for two different parties and a well-known political powerbroker in Albania, was arrested on Tuesday over charges related to a waste incinerator controversy, a source from the Special Prosecution, SPAK, told BIRN.
Koka, 57, served as major of Durres, Albania’s second-largest city, then as an MP for the Socialist Party, an MP for the Socialist Movement for Integration and again as an MP for the Socialist Party, for which he won a crucial battleground seat in April’s parliamentary elections.
As Environment Minister representing the Socialist Movement for Integration, he awarded three highly controversial concessionary contracts for the construction of waste incinerators in Elbasan, Fieri and Tirana.
When his relations with the Socialist Movement for Integration soured after his return to the Socialist Party this year, the SMI accused him of creating a network of sham companies that received contracts worth millions of euros from the company that was specially created to build the Elbasani Waste Incinerator.
It was alleged that the sham companies were registered under the ownership of several individuals connected with Koka and were shut down soon after receiving the money transfers.
Koka denied any wrongdoing at the time and accused his former party of showing ingratitude towards him.
Even though he got very good electoral results in April’s parliamentary polls, he resigned as an MP in September without providing an explanation.
The US ambassador to Tirana, Yuri Kim, hailed the Special Prosecution’s actions without mentioning Koka by name.
“SPAK actions, especially this week, show that no one is above the law. You can run, but you cannot hide from the law anymore. Justice reform is producing concrete results,” she wrote on Twitter.
Justice reform in Albania started in 2016, aiming to clean up the judicial system by purging corrupt officials and removing political influence on the country’s courts.
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