Kosovo charges president's ally over land scam

It said the group was led by Syla, who surrendered to authorities in April two days after a major police probe and was placed under house arrest. 

Kosovo charges president's ally over land scam

World Bulletin / News Desk

Kosovo's state prosecutor on Tuesday charged an ally of powerful President Hashim Thaci with leading a criminal network responsible for a multi-million euro land scam and money laundering.

Azem Syla, a former member of parliament and prominent politician in Thaci's ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), was charged along with 38 associates in the "organised criminal group," according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.

"They have collaborated with each other, each with a specific role, to deprive Kosovo of public property through criminal activities, including forged official documents, fraud and corrupt practices," the statement said.

After his arrest, the prosecutor said Syla's crime syndicate was involved in illegally acquiring public property in Kosovo worth 30 million euros ($33 million).

Syla, who subsequently quit his job an as MP, labelled the investigation "unfair".

The politician was a top commander in the independence-seeking Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought Serbian forces in the late 1990s, and a close associate of KLA political leader Thaci.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 and Thaci has since served seven years as prime minister, becoming president in April. 

Both Thaci and Syla were named in a 2011 Council of Europe report which said they were leading members of a mafia-style network involved in assassinations, unlawful detentions and even trafficking captives' organs during and after the war.

A special tribunal is being set up in The Hague to investigate and eventually prosecute the allegations in the explosive report. It is expected to be fully operational within the first half of 2017.

Thaci strongly denies the allegations against him.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Ekim 2016, 17:06