Ilir Meta has resigned from his government positions that go to other members of his party. At the origin of all a video broadcast in prime time. Berisha supports it, pointing to Rama and organized crime as its authors. But Rama also wants Berisha's resignation and from the 21 next January it starts with a three-day protest.
A video broadcast last Tuesday in the early evening by the Fiks Fare investigative program made the status quo of Albanian politics even more fragile. About 7 minutes cut from the original and subtitled to highlight a history of corrupt business between hiring party militants and abetting tenders and concessions. Who does not know the context surely understands little, and despite the weak sound in some parts dating, the evidence of what is said is overwhelming. But what is it?
It's March 1st of the 2010., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs meets with Dritan Prifti, Minister of Economy, in the latter's office. They are both founders of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) of which Meta is the leader and Prifti one of the Vice Presidents. The situation is a bit tense and Meta, an agenda in hand, asks Prifti for an account of some issues. At the beginning, of a person who has to solve a problem: Prifti says he doesn't even have a degree but will find the solution. Then, of a militant and friend of the LSI: he must be hired as an inspector. We move on to a tender for the state-owned company Albpetrol: Meta asks Prifti to resolve it and then cancel it. Finally, there is talk of a concession for a water plant. For Meta it is a question of having the 7%, but Prifti seems reluctant because the case is over in court, and after the appeal there can be an appeal to the Court of Cassation. Instead, Meta claims that the Appeal sentence is final, so you can proceed. Moreover, he tells him not to worry because he has good relations with the President of the Court of Cassation, since he has "arranged" her daughter in the embassy.
Attending a similar dialogue between two ministers of any government would make anyone cringe. On the other hand, the video is also a story of blackmail among the main Albanian political actors to stay in office, protect themselves, bring down the government and probably for other vicissitudes that will never come to the surface. And apparently, the only one who didn't know about the existence of the video was public opinion.
The video, a blackmail trick
The first reactions arrive at the end of the "Fiks Fare" program. From the headquarters of the LSI, its Secretary General Luan Rama, accused Prifti of being used by Edi Rama, offering "a disgusting performance through a revolting assembly". The video, "the birth of organized crime", does not disturb the party of Meta which invites Prifti and anyone else who had "facts and evidence to testify in the Procura to shed light on the truth and condemn the guilty".
Instead, Wednesday morning is the same Meta to react harshly. He told the media that he had officially communicated to the President of Parliament the renunciation of parliamentary immunity, "based on the transparency of any accusation of corruption and violation of the law". Then he has his say on the meeting with Prifti. He considers it a bleak interception and "a horrendous political and moral joke, which is part of the blackmail of organized crime" against his person because of his duties, primarily that of President of the Socialist Integration Movement.
He dwells above all on the case of the concession of which the two speak in the video. For Meta, it's a story that goes on from the 2008. One of the three consortia presented for the tender for the concession of a water plant is excluded and goes to court. The Appeal judges that it must participate, but the Ministry would postpone the protocol of the final decision. Then, the representative of the consortium would have turned to Meta as President of the LSI because the postponement would be unfair and intentional. So Meta would have put the matter to Prifti, its Vice President, in these terms. As proof of the fact that it is not an abetting, Meta shows that the 25 OCTOBER 2010 was excluded from the tender due to non-fulfillment of the economic criteria. It was decided by the Evaluation Commission of the Ministry of Economy, a department that he has been leading since September of the 2010.
"The interception and intentional editing of the video", are nothing more than "the standards that Edi Rama wants to establish in Albanian political life", argued Meta, which in no way would not have yielded to the blackmail of Rama and organized crime by he to find a political compromise.
A couple of hours later, at the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Berisha did not comment on the hottest news of the new year. To do it on his own, the Democratic Party spokesman was in the afternoon. Berisha applauds "Meta's choice to renounce parliamentary immunity", attacks Rama who would be the author of "the hideous and amateurish montage", and asks the prosecutor to investigate, guaranteeing "the full availability of his government to facilitate the investigation ".
The video, an indisputable proof
For his part, the author of the video Dritan Prifti is not upset. In a statement for the media, Wednesday afternoon, he confirms that he has resumed the meeting and that he owns the original which he will make available to the public prosecutor and the international organizations present in Albania. Furthermore, what was said between the two would be true: "it is not a montage but only some parts have been cut with unnecessary details". Then the dose goes up. The same Meta would have been aware of the video for some months, so when he came to the head of the Ministry of the Economy, "he could no longer give that concession to his friends" from the fear of being denounced. Prifti would have handed Berisha a copy of the video, but the Prime Minister would not have agreed to watch it. However, Prifti still cherishes the hope that Berisha will react with political and patriotic responsibility in choosing "whether to continue to govern with Ilir Meta, immersed in corruption, or resign it and seek a new majority in Parliament".
The opposition leader Rama, on the other hand, does not use words: Berisha and Meta, after stealing the votes, have usurped the institutions, also robbing public goods. "Yesterday we saw and listened publicly, an episode of a few minutes, linked to the corruption of Berisha, Meta and others who hold power and for years they have been appropriating the water and thermal power plants, oil and beaches, mines and of state property ". But the next day an even more serious event would have happened, because Meta did not resign, and Berisha did not force him to do so, both claiming that what the citizens saw is not true but the work of the crime that captured the opposition and journalists of the "Fiks Fare" program. For Rama, in a normal country "a minister or a government that is elected by the people resigns and depends on his vote", but not a government that has stolen the votes and aims to do it again.
In this crescendo of mutual accusations about blackmail, corruption, ties to organized crime, the Public Prosecutor's Office has tried to take action already Wednesday morning, launching a criminal investigation with three counts: "passive and active corruption of officials public "and" abuse of office ". For this reason, it has seized the video transmitted by the "Fiks Fare" program and will do the same with the documentation on the concession of the water plant. Only in the case in which elements of crime have been found, the Public Prosecutor will ask the Parliament to suspend the parliamentary immunity of the two deputies, who invited them to present themselves of their will to give evidence since they cannot be summoned. Yes, because the constitution does not provide for the voluntary renunciation of parliamentary immunity. Only Parliament has the power to revoke it,
otherwise we cannot proceed against the deputies.
Video: editing or cutting?
But if Wednesday was the day of positioning in its trenches, on Thursday it turned into one in search of the truth to offer to public opinion. Prifti shows up at the Prosecutor's Office to depose and deliver the original video along 13 minute and 30 seconds, almost twice that transmitted on TV. 4 hours of deposition on the content of the video and reassurances for the press that does not withdraw and tells the truth.
For his part, Berisha breaks the silence after more than 36 hours. "For one thing you have to be sure: if I wanted to, the video wouldn't have come to you," Berisha told reporters, admitting that Prifti had brought it to him, but he hadn't accepted it because his government didn't give in to blackmail. The video remains a montage ordered by the TV channel Top Edi Rama that to defeat the opponent is willing to do anything. Berisha asked the prosecutor to investigate, partly because in a part of the video there is a cut of at least 20 seconds that would link Berisha to the concession.
But an hour later, Rama defined the behavior of Berisha and Meta as a provocation and an attempt to numb the citizens with the editing and make-up of a video made by the opposition, when it is a document with audio and video broadcast by "Fiks Fare" and subsequently by the major international TV stations, which would not send "neither montages nor tricks". With a similar government no relationship can be established and Rama asks for the resignation of Meta and Berisha.
The video, the full version
In fact, the cut of the video appeared on the program "Fiks Fare" seems to be intentional at least for the part concerning Berisha. Towards the end of the discussion on the concession, Meta tells Prifti that he has spoken "even with the doctor and within a week the matter ends". In truth, there is no sequence of twenty seconds that totally changes the context in which Meta mentions "the doctor", that is Berisha. He is the Director of the Albanian Energy Corporation, has nothing to do with the concession, and does not even seem to be a relevant topic for corruption. Then another sequence of 53 seconds. That puts Meta's words immediately after those spoken about Berisha: he recommends Prifti to be careful from the prosecutor's office because he can come out. Also in this case it is another matter that is not relevant and inserted in another context.
This is what came out in the early evening on the most popular programs of the two major private TV stations. Meta in front of five journalists for the "Opinion" program on TV Klan, and Prifti with the full version of the video for the "Top Story" program on Top Channel TV. A comparison at a distance and a challenge to the audience to impose each one's own truth. The two provided their own version of the facts and bemoaned one of the other. Meta continued to defend itself on all the issues that the two spoke in the meeting. The concession is not a corrupt affair but far from it: the figures heard in the video refer to the damage caused to the consortium by continuous postponements. The occupation of party militants is not a crime but a duty towards their commitment. The other tender is not a pressure on Prifti, and the reference to the President of the Court of Cassation is out of place.
For Meta, the video is a sophisticated montage and "through wiretapping, editing and blackmail you cannot make political changes" in Albania. He would have known about the video the moment Prifti was put out of the government, but he did not yield to his blackmail. Prifti is an unreliable and unstable person because he has said everything about Rama and other politicians. Moreover, he has always been at the center of the accusations of the Socialists for corruption, but for two months he has been seen every night with Rama.
Instead, Prifti offers other background details related to what was discussed in the video. The 7% would have been up to Prifti, instead in Meta the 20% would have gone, as the latter would control one of the companies that are part of the consortium through one of its ex-driver today builder. Then, tell a little of everything. Meta would be one of the most dangerous men in Albania, it is the most corrupt because from 10-12 years is robbing Albanian citizens. He even talks about a conspiracy Berisha - Meta - Nano, entrusted to him by Meta himself. The intention would be to remove Rama from the Municipality of Tirana in the next elections, Meta would also remove him from the Socialist Party to take his place and become leader of the opposition, instead Fatos Nano would be elected President of the Republic. Furthermore, there would be another compromising video.
Until midnight on Thursday Meta always maintained that he would not resign, but at noon on Friday he resigns. His decision is his personal and irrevocable, "to make himself available to the prosecution as a simple citizen", without the guise of his government duties. On the other hand, Meta claims that he will undertake "a civil and legal battle against the monster Dritan Prifti" because it is important that anyone who is hostage to organized crime for his dirty business does not take the state and institutions hostage as well.
Resignations accepted, Berisha declares that he did not influence the choice of his minor ally, but to appreciate it. After listing the merits of Meta in his government as head of foreign and economic ministers, he called the coalition between his party and Meta's one the most efficient ever in Albania. For Berisha, Meta's resignation came after a substantial change: it was proved that the video is manipulated by the same TV that first broadcast the cut version and then the full version. But according to Berisha the video has not yet been broadcast in its full version, hoping they will.
Instead, Rama at the end of his party's National Assembly, renewed his request for Berisha to resign. And he announced that very soon they will publish a scandal on the real crime figures in Albania, and then another that would imply the government as the direct responsible for the floods in Albania. Rama has invited all citizens to take to the streets next December 21. The Assembly of the PS has decided to start again with the protests and continue its conditional relationship with the Parliament, participating in the sittings without voting on the bills until full transparency on the 2009 elections will be made.
The Court of Cassation and the European Union
On Friday, the President of the Court of Cassation, Shpresa Beçaj, who categorically denies being involved, expressed herself for the first time. Beçaj defended the institution that he represents: the Court enjoys full autonomy in the deliberation of sentences that are reasoned and argued only according to the law. Not only that, but the President has no competence to exert pressure and have sentences in her favor, as the Colleges of the Court are composed of 5 judges.
"Agreements, talks or social, political or media promises, made in public or in private, and not included in the final Court of Cassation sentences, constitute unprofessional, subjective and partisan behavior," said Beçaj , claiming that the Appello sentence of which Meta and Prifti speak in the video was decided on 18 June 2010, three months after the meeting between the two, and the appeal presented in Cassation by one of the parties to the 23 Settembre 2010, must be still under consideration.
Detail that has not gone unnoticed. For the socialists, what Beçaj declared proves that Ilir Meta would have lied at the time about the appeal's sentence and would have tried these days to use a non-existent sentence in order not to face the organs of justice.
The European Commission has repeatedly expressed its views through the spokesman of the Commissioner for Enlargement, Natasha Butler. The fight against corruption is one of the 12 points to be fulfilled to obtain the status of candidate country. And nobody can stand above the law. The EU takes note of Ilir Meta's resignation, and now it is up to justice to investigate without being hampered in his work. So all the spotlights are on the Albanian prosecutor's office. There are so many doubts on the part of the media and public opinion about his work in the past. Will he be able to shed full light on the episode? Meanwhile, he is working on the authenticity of the video and has requested the assistance of foreign experts to break up any criticism, turning to the US Embassy in Tirana.
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