Albania’s Parliament Greenlights ex-Deputy PM’s Arrest

Albania's parliament voted on Friday to accept the Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organised Crime's request to be able to arrest former Deputy Prime Minister, Arben Ahmetaj.

The SPAK had requested the arrest and a personal search warrant and a house search in connection with charges on corruption and money laundering.

After two days of deliberations, a special council on MPs' mandates authorised parliament to vote. Of the 119 MPs present in the chamber, 117 voted in favour.

The vote was necessary as parliamentarians enjoy legal immunity from arrest.

Gazmend Bardhi, head of the parliamentary group of the opposition Democratic Party, urged the SPAK "to investigate until the end" the so-called "incinerator case" in which Ahmetaj is involved.

Bardhi also accused Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of "hiding" Ahmetaj, whose whereabouts are not known. His lawyer has said he is out of the country.

Rama declared that he would address the people later on Friday regarding the vote in parliament.

In a long Facebook post on Friday morning, a few minutes before the vote took place, he said that Ahmetaj was "not on the run" from justice but was absent "for serious family reasons".

Ahmetaj started his career as high-level official at the tax agency more than two decades ago and rose in the ranks and in wealth fast. He became a deputy minister by 2005 and a Socialist Party MP in 2009.

He became Minister of Economy in 2013 and then Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. He also has a declared wealth of some 3 million euros according to BIRN's calculations of his Asset Declaration Statements.

On Monday, Albania's Special Prosecution requested permission from parliament to arrest him.

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