On the 20th of February, three days after the declaration of independence, the nth official from UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik) is indicted: the Kenyan-Yemeni NABEEL Hussein, head of the financial unit at Dubrava prison. Allegation: embezzlement of funds. Approximately 40,000 euros disappeared from the municipality coffers. The news doesn’t make any big noise. Only the one caused by horns and kalashnikovs celebrating in the streets of Pristina the birth of the new state echoes in the world media. A miserable fraud looks like peanuts compared to the danger of a new crisis in the Balkans.
However the perspective changes after a quick calculation based on official documents. Those 40,000 bring to almost 47 million euro the amounts of frauds (publicly disclosed so far) involving the UN Interim Administration in the former-Serbian province. In other terms, from 1999 to present roughly 2% of the reconstruction aids (3 billion euros) has been mismanaged by a bunch of Unmik international representatives together with their Kosovar accomplices. An hazardous as much rewarding game for both of them. The second finally have their independent government, as corrupt as it was before the war against Belgrade. The first get relaxed abroad in spite of the international arrest warrants which are targeting them.
So does Hussein. He fled from Kosovo before being tracked by Unmik Financial Investigation Unit (FIU). The head of FIU, Tennant Colonel Roberto Magni, keeps in his drawers a package of files on several top secret investigations: 30 conducted only in 2005 and others which are still ongoing. “We will continue to work even after Unmik will be replaced by the EU“, says his deputy, Captain Massimo Vincenti, “The future FIU staff will be reinforced with officers from all 25 Member States“.
Yet, to date, Unmik international staff only counts one arrested: the German Jo Trutschler. He has been sentenced in Germany in 2002 for stealing 4.5 million from the budget of the electricity company, KEC Elektrokosova, where he had been appointed Director by the UN. This case is just the top of the iceberg.
The bulk of financial scandals remain unpunished under the quiet sea of diplomatic propaganda. “Trutschler is in jail only because we convinced the German press to deal with his case,” says Augustin Palokaj, reporter at Koha Ditore, the largest Kosovar-Albanian newspaper, “As long as corruption inside Unmik is only denounced by local newspapers nobody will take it seriously“. In the western media UN misdeeds in Kosovo worth less than an obituary, even now that Unmik is about to leave the scene to give the floor to Eulex, the European mission expected to be officially operational by next June.
An annual cost in staff and offices of 300 million euros, a long list of allegations and pending trials and a zero effect on the economic development of Kosovo. This is the heritage left by UN bureaucracy. “We are working on several cases, many of which are still under preliminary investigation,” says Annunziata Ciaravolo, Unmik Chief Prosecutor since 2004.
Here you are the retrospective “crimes” history emerging from our investigation. In a chronological order, first comes the Swedish Gerard Fischer, former-advisor of the very initial head of Unmik: the French Bernard Kuchner (now foreign minister of “La Republique”). In March 2001, on behalf of the public telephone company, PTKs, Fischer signs a 42 million euros suspicious contract with the Austrian company, Infonova, which is supposed to develop Internet in Kosovo. He is indicted in spring 2004, while being in Switzerland. Unmik Prosecutors invites him for a talk in a neutral ground, the Macedonian capital of Skopje, but the case is soon closed up.
Fischer’s Kosovar assistant, Leme Xhema, is not as lucky as he is. Appointed by PTK director in 2001 by Fischer himself, she is arrested and then released on bail. This is one of the many examples of joint illegal activities carried on by international and Kosovar officials, which end up with penalties only for the second ones. The problem is that Unmik foreign officials, those who earn more (about 3000 euros per month versus 800 paid to local staff) have short-term contracts. Their crimes are always discovered after they have returned home and the Code of Criminal Procedure prohibits Unmik convictions in absentia.
The Kuchner Age is just the beginning. Over time manipulation of international funds get rooted more and more in the shade of collusive relations between UN hierarchs and the so-called local “Untouchable”: Premier Agim Ceku and the other members of Kosovo provisional government. All of them are considered corrupted by 80% of the population, according to a survey conducted last year by the NGO Cohu.
The internal audit on Kosovo Consolidated Budget (KCB) for the year 2005 unveils thousands of violation to public spending rules. Among the top five money wasters we find the Ministers of Finance, Trade and Industry and the Return of Refugees. All three, along with trade unions and Unmik representatives, sit in the Board of KTA (Kosovo Trust Agency). The latter is the supreme financial management body set up by the UN. It appoints the chiefs of State companies inherited from the former-Yugoslav-Federation, deals with privatization and tendering and has virtually in its hands all the money that pours in the country.
Resulting from Unmik reform in 2002 and the introduction of the “Pillar IV” (the economic department funded with about 2 billion euros), KTA was born with the objective of gradually transferring into local hands the administration of Kosovo. The strategy envisages that initially the key posts are entrusted to KTA foreign officials, assisted by Kosovar deputies. But the new formula for international-local co-management further degenerates into complicity, thus becoming the source of all most recent scandals.
Some names? The English Roger Reynolds, former CEO of PTKs. In March 2003 he signs a 300 thousand euros contract offering Norway Invest 50% of the profits resulting from the new project commissioned to the Norwegian company. A few months later Reynolds leaves Unmik and enters Norway Invest management board. In November 2006, Unmik Prosecutors include his name in the blacklist. The accusation is fraud and money laundering. Since then no more track of him, neither of his crime-associate, the Norwegian Ole Johansen, former PTK manager. Only the small local “fishes” have showed up at the first hearing, held last April. Among them, once again, Leme Xhema.
In order to strengthen the fight against illegality, in 2004 Unmik creates the International Task Force (ITF) consisting of agents from the Italian Guardia di Finanza, Olaf (European Anti-fraud) and the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). The new team goes after Gavin Jeffrey, English, administrator at PTKs. He is considered responsible for the 30 thousand euros contract irregularly signed in 2004 with the advisory company “Crown Agents”. Jeffrey, like many other misdoing directors reported by ITF to Unmik supervisors, is not even removed from office. In 2006 the FIU collects clues about his possible involvement in criminal and administrative activities. But Jeffrey has already packed.
The last reported member of the “missing club” is the Welsh Ian Wollet, former-director of Pristina International Airport from 2005 to September 2006. Wanted since December 2006 for a bribery scandal (some of his Kosovar employees helped their friends to get a job at the Airport in turn of 3,500 euros per person) he has then acquitted thanks to the withdrawal of the main witness and a consequent lack of evidence. Accordingly to a report published in March 2006 by OIOS, the Danish Soren Jesen-Peterssen, head of Unmik at that time, has not taken appropriate counter-measures although aware of wrongdoings. Peterssen resigns in June 2007.
His successor, the German Joachim Rucker, is probably the last pharaoh of Unmik dynasty. He is rumored not to be totally clean: he was KTA Director during the ”maneuvred” take-over of the mining company Ferronickel by Alferon, the Anglo-Kazhak multinational suspected of doing shady business all over the world. “The UN and in particular Rucker, who holds a big part of the responsibility, is trying to silence the whole thing until the end of UN mandate” comments Krenar Gashi from Balkan Investigative & Research Network, “After Unmik is dismantled all investigations will become waste paper and nobody will speak about them anymore”.
Box – Glossary
UNMIK – United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo
KTA – Kosovo Trust Fund
KCB – Kosovo Consolidated Budget
ITF – International Task Force
FIU – Financial Investigation Unit
OIOS – Office of Internal Oversight Services
OLAF – EU anti-fraud Office
Box – The sharing of Kosovo economy cake
Through the privatization process managed by Unmik, foreign investors have so far taken over 35% of the State companies left as a legacy from Serbia to Kosovo
COUNTRY – NUMBER OF LOCAL PUBLIC COMPANIES AQCUIRED
1. Switzerland -16
2. USA – 10
3. Germany – 9
4. Albania – 7
5. Macedonia – 5
6. Croatia – 4
7. Turkey – 3
8. Italy – 3
9. Slovenia – 3
10. Austria – 2
11. United Kingdom – 2
12. Belgium – 1
13. Bulgaria – 1
14. Australia -1
15. Netherlands – 1
16. France -1