Sun, 28 Feb 2021

PRISTINA -- A court in Kosovo has acquitted former Prime Minister Agim Ceku and 11 other ex-government officials of misusing public money in welfare benefits to fake war veterans.

The Basic Court in Pristina on January 19 cleared Ceku and 11 codefendants, including another former defense minister and several ex-lawmakers, of abusing their official positions to add people to a government-approved list of Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) veterans eligible for benefits.

The Special Prosecution of Kosovo had charged the defendants in 2018 over illegal payments made to around 19,000 people who hadn't fought during the 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia, generating tens of millions of euros in losses for the state budget.

The defendants were all members of the government commission launched in 2012 to verify veterans. The commission in 2016 issued a list of 46,000 names of people eligible for benefits.

The commission was headed by Ceku, a former UCK commander, former prime minister, and ex-defense minister.

The defendants also included former Defense Minister Rrustem Berisha and three ex-lawmakers, Shkumbin Demaliaj, Nuredin Lushtaku, and Shukri Buja.

Other suspects accused of falsifying documents have been convicted or are awaiting trial.

With reporting by Balkan Insight

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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