Opposition parties in Kosovo have demanded the resignation of the Minister of Finance following the shock discovery that unknown ministry officials had criminally removed 2 million euros from its budget.
Finance Minister Hykmete Bajrami on Thursday told a meeting of the Commission for Supervision of Public Finances that her ministry had acted promptly, and reported the case to the police “three minutes after being informed” of the theft.
“This was an economic cybercrime, as the passwords were broken and users created without any signature,” Bajrami added.
Trying to steady nerves, Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti told a press conference on Thursday that there was no place for “fraudsters and abusers within the public system and its institutions.
“Minister Bajrami, is in charge of activity to ensure that systems are protected. Law enforcement agencies are doing their job,” he insisted.
However, the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, said Bajrami needed to resign, “to give space for independent investigations and avoid political interference”.
On Wednesday evening, speaking on TV Dukagjini, Bajrami said she would not resign, as that would be the easy way out, pledging to oversee the while situation “to the end”.
The head of the governing Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, Isa Mustafa, via Facebook, expressed support for Bajrami, saying she was “not there to surrender to thieves, creating a void to hide traces of the theft of public money, but to confront” them.
Another junior governing party, the Social Democratic Initiative, NISMA, called more generally on the judiciary to prioritize the case.
Police on Tuesday meanwhile arrested one Finance Ministry official, Labinot Gruda, citing four illegal transfers of 2.07 million euros from the Ministry of Infrastructure to a private company, LDA Group, on October 9.
Two other suspects in the same case, Kamer and Valon Shala, co-owners of the same company, are now on the run.
One of these co-owners is the father of Hajrie Gashi, an advisor to Deputy Prime Minister Albulena Balaj Halimaj. On Facebook, on Wednesday, she said she had “decided to dismiss Hajrie Gashi with immediate effect from the position of advisor”, to avoid any further implications.
Following reports that Labinot Gruda had connections to the PDK branch in the municipality of Drenas/ Glogovac, the party denied the claims, insisting that the people of the municipality “know quite well” that he comes from “a family that traditionally supported the LDK”.
The municipality said Gruda headed its Directorate of Budget and Finance in 2018, but then left to take up a position in the Ministry of Finance.