IPARD file returns to SPAK, ‘Nisma Thurje’ seeks the investigation of state officials
Representatives of the ‘Nisma Thurje’ (Hashtag Initiative) have filed criminal charges to SPAK against officials of the Agency of Agriculture (AZHBR) and the former Minister of Agriculture Frida Krifca over suspicion of abuse of office and corruption. This is the second time that the IPARD program officially goes to SPAK, which previously claimed it was incompetent to investigate the case.
Representatives of the ‘Nisma Thurje’ (‘Hashtag Initiative’) have filed criminal charges to SPAK for the officials of the Agency of Agriculture (AZHBR) and the former Minister of Agriculture Frida Krifca over suspicion of abuse of office and corruption.
“Today, we filed at SPAK criminal charges regarding the abuses with the AZHBR funds, IPARD funds, and other funds of national support,” declared Endri Shabani to the media.
“We are seeking from SPAK today to investigate the former Minister of Agriculture, the director of AZHBR as well as the decision-making chain, who are responsible for that decision that the EU took for the very first time against Albania, that of excluding the country from EU funds,” elaborated Shabani.
‘Nisma Thurje’ representatives sent to the Special Prosecution’s Office among others information that SPAK “had moved away from themselves a long time ago.” The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) had earlier submitted a report to the Special Prosecution’s Office (SPAK).
OLAF had earlier filed their charges in June 2020 and two years later SPAK declared it was incompetent to adjudicate it hence passing the file to Tirana’s Prosecution’s Office which informed Amfora Media that, “criminal charges remain at the early phase of investigation without a name of perpetrator registered in the charges.”
“Criminal charges no. 7471, of 2022 were registered for the criminal offenses ‘Falsification of documents’ and ‘Abuse of office’, stipulated in articles 186 and 248 of the Criminal Code,” previously informed the Tirana Prosecution’s Office.
In 2018, the Agriculture and Rural Development Agency (AZHBR) in Albania was assigned by the IPARD II Program, to distribute grants through a budget of 94.6 million euros, 71 million of which were a contribution of the European Commission and 23.6 million euros were the national contribution of the Albanian state.
The EU Office in Tirana earlier confirmed suspicions of corruption with its funds for Albanian agriculture on July 19. OLAF submitted the European Commission several findings which forced the Commission to suspend funds, until the final assessment report from OLAF’s investigation.
Former Minister of Agriculture, Frida Krifca, led the Agriculture and Rural Development Agency (AZHBR) from July 2017-September 2021 until she was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. EU’s investigation was focused on the period she led AHZBR, which coincided with the second phase of the program, in 2014-2020.
Amfora Media uncovered in a previous investigation how the IPARD program had turned into an “exclusive club” for big companies which had ties with politics and crime. Recently opened businesses as well as other ones without any experience in agriculture, were exposed in some cases, creating schemes where they profited as a family or committed fraud by changing investments’ destination.