Dino Asanaj, head of Kosovo Privatisation Agency, stabbed himself numerous times in his office, according to an autopsy.
By Linda Karadaku and Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina --16/06/12
The head of Kosovo's Agency of Privatisation, who was under criminal investigation for allegedly seeking a bribe of 4m euros from the owners of a Kosovo hotel, committed suicide by repeatedly stabbing himself in his Pristina office, officials said. Dino Asanaj was buried before 300 family and friends on Friday (June 15th), the same day that autopsy results confirmed that Asanaj took his own life on Thursday while shrouded by the corruption probe.
"There is no doubt that he had caused the wounds himself," Arsim Gerxhaliu, director of the Department of Forensic Medicine, told SETimes. "He has started with the little cuts, first in the neck and then down to the chest. The cuts have been done fast and he has been losing blood that has caused his death. It would have lasted for several minutes."
Investigators said that Asanaj used a kitchen knife, which was found at the scene. Gerxhaliu said Asanaj had 11 knife wounds in the neck and the chest, with two fatal wounds reaching his lung and heart.
Authorities are being cautious in calling the death a suicide. Prosecutor Blerim Isufaj said authorities are interviewing several people and collecting evidence. "It is the first phase of the investigations and I, as a prosecutor, cannot qualify it neither as a murder, nor as a suicide because we do not have yet any exact evidence which would lead us on one side or the other," he said. The autopsy report will be sent to the State Prosecutor's Office.
Asanaj had served as an adviser to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and in 2008 became the chairman of the board of the privatisation agency. Prosecutors earlier this year opened an investigation into allegations that Asanaj sought a bribe from the owners of the Grand Hotel in Pristina, which was privatised in 2006 but had failed to uphold its contract with the state.
Under Kosovo privatisation laws, companies can be "blocked" by the state after they are sold if the owners default on the terms of the deal – typically by failing to invest in the business or reach employment levels. Remzi Ejupi, a 20% shareholder in the Grand Hotel in Pristina, said that Asanaj requested 4m euros to unblock the hotel. The corruption investigation was reported earlier this month by the Kosovo daily Koha Ditore.
Asanaj refuted the allegations and publicly challenged people to turn over evidence to prosecutors. "That is the only way to be followed and I express my readiness to respond to the responsible bodies at any time," Asanaj said publicly.
Ejupi on Friday reiterated his allegations against Asanaj. "I remain convinced that the country's authorities, and the international ones, will enlighten the real motives of this tragic event," he said.
It is unknown how investigators will proceed with the corruption investigation. "When the person that is suspected dies and if there are no other persons involved in the case, the investigations would be closed," Drita Hajdari, a prosecutor in the Pristina District Prosecutor's Office, told SETimes.
Jakup Krasniqi, speaker of the parliament, and Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi spoke at Asanaj's funeral. The parliament also held a minute of silence to honor him. "He was aware of the complexity of the [privatisation process] and of the vital importance of privatisation. Kosovo will also miss him, Kosovo for which he engaged himself so much and for so long," Krasniqi said.
Haxhi Arifi, a family representative who spoke in the funeral, called on attendees to support Asanaj's work. "Dino unfortunately left before time from life, it is a big loss for everybody that cannot be compensated. When I see all of you, I am convinced that Dino will continue to live with his work," he said.
The horrific incident is cause for concern, said Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Balkan Policy Institute.
"I think we should believe the official autopsy. However, it is important to understand what forced a person in such an important position, to commit suicide," he told SETimes. "We shall hope that this tragic case would lead towards the enlightening of the irregularities in the privatisation process."