On November 3, the Special Court for Corruption and Organized Crime decided, based on the “Anti-mafia Law,” to confiscate most of the property of Ylli Ndroqi, including the RTV Ora News. The state will own these assets. They were seized in 2020 and 2021 as suspected to be the product of criminal activity. 60% of the shares of the company “Ora” is among the confiscated property, which represents the television “Ora News” and 30% of the shares of the company “Channel One” (here and here).
The abbreviated decision of the court states that the confiscation was carried out based on the 2009 law “On preventing and combating organized crime and trafficking through preventive measures against property,” otherwise known as the “Antimafia” law.
One of Ndroqi’s legal representatives, lawyer Jordan Daci, described the decision as a blow to the media, noting that the court had taken care to confiscate most of the shares of “Ora News,” leading to the loss of control over the TV channel (here).
Ndroqi (known to police also as Xhemal Pasmaçiu) has been suspected of involvement in drug trafficking but was never charged. Prosecutors claimed its owner, Ylli Ndroqi, could not explain the legitimate origin of most of his multimillion euros’ wealth. Ndroqi had never commented on the cases. He insists that his wealth is legitimate. The US treasury department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, has accused him of using the media outlets formerly under his control and seized by the state in 2020 to “extort and blackmail Albanian citizens through demands for money and advertising purchases in exchange for withholding publication of negative media stories” (here).
Albania’s anti-mafia law allows authorities to seize properties that could not be explained as coming from legitimate sources, whether there is direct proof that these assets are the proceeds of illegal activities.
The opposition has criticized the court decision as a political decision against media freedom (here and here). Brahim Shima, general director of the television, said the decision was politically motivated and related to the TV station’s criticism of Prime Minister Edi Rama and pointed to the conflict between Ndroqi and the Mayor of Tirana, Erjon Veliaj (here). Lawyer Jordan Daci confirmed they would appeal the decision.
The officers of the Bureau of the Investigative Commission, the officers of the Judicial Police, and the state administrators of the Seized and Confiscated Assets Agency arrived on the morning of November 4 at the premises of RTV Ora. They conveyed that the work would continue and that the confiscation would not violate the freedom of expression. Administrators initiated an equipment inventory and asked reporters to continue working as usual. The company administrator, Farudin Arapi, said, “This is not final. It is still an open decision of a court of the first instance. We have not yet received the first instance’s reasoning part of the court. Your legal representatives have sufficient time for the appeal. The work will not be stopped even after the court issues a final decision.”
But the journalists expressed disbelief that they could exercise their profession freely under the state confiscation of the station where they work (here).
Given that the court has yet to publish the entire decision, one cannot assess whether the court has considered the principle of proportionality, given that the property confiscated is media. The situation is very complex, and the future of RTV Ora is in question, as well as the position of journalists and media staff (some testimonials here). Notwithstanding, local, and international reports have underlined as highly concerning the link between media and organized crime in recent years.