The Speaker of Kosovo’s Assembly, Jakup Krasniqi, has asked the judiciary to hunt down the “privatization-don” whom he suspects is a politician, and called for the freeze of privatization processes.During Wednesday’s parliamentary session, Krasniqi questioned the privatization of the state owned companies, mentioning the case of the “Grand Hotel” for which the Deputy-Prime Minister Behgjet Pacolli is under investigation.
“There are realtors who are asking for millions of euros on behalf of someone so that a certain deal can go ahead. Now we have to find out who that privatisation boss is,” he said.
The privatization process has been marred by a number of scandals, following the mysterious death of the Director of Kosovo’s Privatization Agency, Dino Asanaj, in June this year.
According to an autopsy conducted by a mixed team of Kosovo and EULEX [EU rule of law mission] forensic experts, Asanaj committed suicide on June 14, by stabbing himself 11 times. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, is assisting Kosovo police with the investigation into Asanaj’s death.
On September 12, Kosovo’s police started interrogating the shareholders of Pristina’s Grand Hotel, as part of their investigations into Asanaj’s death.
The police have already questioned the Deputy Prime Minister Behgjet Pacolli, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Astrit Haraqija, and Uke Rugova, the son of the former President of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova.
Pacolli and the businessman Remzi Ejupi, who co-own the Grand Hotel, claim that Rugova, Haraqija, Naser Osmani and Gazmend Abrashi asked for 4 million euros to allow the privatisation of the Grand Hotel to go forward without a hitch.
Ejupi even recorded a conversation with Abrashi, which he handed over to the police. All four men deny asking for money from the owners of the hotel.
“You could accuse Dino Asanaj, but he was not that powerful…Who is the real boss of the privatization then? It’s the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office who must answer this question,” Jakup Krasniqi said.
Krasniqi who is also the Secretary General of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, further explained that he is not against privatizing the state owned companies, but that he wants the process to be put on hold until both parliament and the public are informed about the results of the investigation into the Grand Hotel affair.
“The existence of leaders above the law, compounded with involvement in organized crime, are strong arguments for the case that the privatization programme was not initiated for the benefit of the public,” Krasniqi said.
The Minister for Economic Development, Besim Beqaj, who is in charge of the privatization process, responded by saying that the process was initiated by parliament, and that it cannot stop just because someone wants it too.
“Economic development is driven by the private sector. I don’t think that in any circumstances the private sector can destroy the country. On the contrary, this sector employs 80% of the citizens, and is the biggest contributor to the budget. As stakeholders, we have to be rational and point out that the privatization process has not damaged our economy,” Beqaj said.
Twenty-seven organizations, united under the chairmanship of the Alliance of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo, BSPK oppose the sale of government shares in the three largest remaining public companies in Kosovo.
PDK’s Parliamentary Group Chief, Adem Grabovci, told BIRN on Wednesday that regardless of Krasniqi’s attitude and those of the opposition parties the process of selling the assets of Kosovo’s Post-Telecom, the Power Company and the Trepca mines, will go ahead.