Balkan Insight reported this week that the Department of State had the former attorney general of Albania, Adriatik Llalla, and his family have been barred from admission to the United States following accusations that he has been involved in significant government corruption. The U.S. has been engaged in cooperative efforts with the Albanian government in the area of judicial and governmental reform, which Llalla had resisted. The announcement of the sanction on Llalla and his family came on February 15. 

Llalla resigned in late 2017 to avoid scrutiny by the “vetting process,” whereby the qualifications and background of judges and prosecutors are examined. In 2017, Llalla’s pregnant wife entered the United States where she delivered birth to their youngest child. 

According to the State Department notice, "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is publicly designating former Albanian Prosecutor General (Mr) Adriatik Llalla under Section 7031(c) of the FY2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act due to his involvement in significant corruption."

According to the official press release, "In cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.   The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their family members. In addition to the designation of Llalla, the Secretary is also publicly designating Llalla’s spouse, Ardjana Llalla, his daughter, Eni Llalla, and his other, non-US citizen child…"

In an email response, Spero News contributor Peter Tase commented on the ban. “Such an abrupt action of the American government towards Tirana’s ruling elite is perhaps the most important action that Washington has taken towards strengthening Albanian democracy since the re-opening of American embassy in the Balkan country more than  27 years ago.”

U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu commented in Tirana about Llalla and the sanctions imposed by the State Department. The diplomat told the media, "The resignation of some corrupt judicial officials represents a victory for us, because they will not be able to return to the system for at least 15 years. Be that as it may, they are not exonerated for their faults. Those who are afraid of the reform of the judicial system must necessarily also be afraid of the inevitable criminal investigations."

The current Attorney General and head prosecutor Arta Marku has openly criticized the quality of the investigations carried out to date, and has asked for the reopening of several unresolved cases. "From the qualitative point of view, the lack of quality of some investigations, sporadic and disorganized, is evident. Courageous prosecutors must focus investigating corruption at all levels, abuse of power, and the fight against drug producers and traffickers. It is necessary to increase collaboration with the judicial police, with the aim of reopening some investigations and increasing public trust in the law and the courts.”

Spero News contributor Tase added, “Many top Albanian officials are extremely corrupt, they have amassed significant amounts of wealth and shoreline properties in Europe and South Africa. The current restrictions imposed upon Llalla and several of his colleagues in the justice system are indeed the beginning of a furious thunderstorm rightfully orchestrated by Washington to strengthen Albanian institutions, democracy, and transparency, as well as combat a deeply ingrained and corrupt government system that engulfs many key officials, from the top confidants of the Albanian head of state all the way to most members of parliament and the leader of the opposition party.”
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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