Earlier this week, Albania’s Special Appeals Court Against Corruption and Organised Crime upheld a verdict sentencing the former General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla to two years in prison for illegally concealing assets. Llalla was not present at the hearing.
Llalla is the highest-level official to have been found guilty of a crime in several decades in Albania. His wealth is estimated to be around one million euros.
The defence lawyer for Llalla, Sokol Hazizaj, told reporters that his client had been “admitted to hospital,” but refused to give a specific location. Quoting an unnamed police source, local media reported that Llalla had already left Albania at the time of the court hearing.
This week’s hearing took place after already being postponed three times due to the absence of Llalla’s lawyer. Llalla had appealed his earlier conviction for imprisonment and sequestration of property by the Court Against Corruption and Organised Crime.
On 20 May, Llalla was sentenced to two years in prison and five years expulsion from the justice system and public office. The Court also ruled to seize an apartment in Durrës, and four plots of land under Llalla’s name.
In its decision, the Court stated that Llalla did not have honest sources for the acquisition of these assets. Llalla was also found to have bought low-value assets and sold them at a higher value.
In the days following the Court’s decision, concerns have been raised that Albania failed to immediately request that Interpol raise an international “red notice” for the arrest of Llalla. He was declared wanted in Albania on 22 September, after police were unable to locate him and execute the court’s decision.
A courts and crime journalist in Tirana, Anila Hoxha, said authorities could have acted immediately to discover if Llalla had fled the country.
“The authorities including the Special Prosecution could have avoided bureaucracy and procedure and the Special Prosecution could have immediately asked Interpol in Tirana for Adriatik Llalla to be declared wanted internationally,” Hoxha explained.
Llalla has also been declared “non grata” by the US, on charges of corruption in public office. In Llalla’s last days in office, the US ambassador to Tirana, Donald Lu, described him as “an enemy” to justice reform in Albania.
Llalla resigned from his position in 2017, and refused to submit to the vetting process under new justice reform in Albania.
The US barred Llalla from entering the country in 2018 due to his suspected involvement in corrupt practices.