Region is streamlining corruption investigations

19/02/2013

Too many institutions and the lack of co-ordinated legislation are hindering the fight against organised crime in the region, analysts say.

By Aleksandar Pavlevski and Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Skopje and Sofia -- 19/02/13

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Co-ordinating institutions will help police fight organised crime. [AFP]

Organised crime and corruption remain a problem in the region, despite efforts and attempts to repress it. Analysts and politicians said that institutional organisation and streamlining investigation policies will boost success in the fight.

Aside from the penal code and the criminal procedure code, which form the backbone of Bulgaria's anti-crime legislation, there are a number of other laws that focus on the specific aspects of organised crime.

Those include the law on measures against the financing of terrorism, the law on measures against money laundering, the law on combating trafficking in human beings and the law on the forfeiture of illegally obtained assets.

The existence of all those legal acts has not resulted in tangible progress in the fight against organised crime in Bulgaria, however.

One of the main reasons for this is the authorities' "rather luxurious policy" in this field in recent years, Rada Smedovska-Toneva, senior fellow in legal research at the RiskMonitor Foundation in Sofia, told SETimes. "Too many resources and efforts have been devoted to the creation of new institutions [and laws] tasked with fighting organised crime."

"The main thing the country should do is stop the chaotic production of more and more new administrative structures," she said.

"The institutionalisation of new structures is perceived as an attractive and easy way for achieving positive results. But this only seems so, because those structures need time and resources to become effectively involved in anti-crime activities," she said.

"Efforts should focus on improving the results of pre-trial proceedings, namely the collection of evidence," she added, noting the need to ensure "much better training of police officers" and "better co-ordination between investigation and prosecution."

The organisational problem is the same in Macedonia.

In 2012, the number of organised crime cases fell in Tetovo, a town that statistically ranks as one of the country's most criminal. In 2012, 10 cases of organised crime were unearthed by police, six less than in 2011, according to Marjan Josifovski, interior ministry spokesman in Tetovo.

"Unlike a few years ago, last year and in 2011 significantly reduced the number of cases with circulation of counterfeit banknotes," Josifovski told SETimes.

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"One of the problems that Macedonia faces when it comes to organised crime is the inability to accurately qualify the work and organisation of the offenders in the pre-investigation and investigation procedures. The problem can be found in the institutional capacities, professionalism and competence in dealing [with the situations]," Frosina Remenskia, a professor at the Faculty of Security in Skopje, told SETimes.

"The key problem is the fact that the public prosecution as a central institution in the fight against organised crime and the ministry of interior as a service institution in the prosecutor's investigation still do not have staff potentials that will ensure efficient and independent fight against organised crime," Remenski said.

Zoran Jachev, former president of the Macedonian NGO Transparency, agrees. "The strategy," he said, "is just a copy of some others which proved to be inefficient in other countries."

According to Jachev, pressure from the international community to fight corruption and organised crime is likely to be so persistent that the government will have no other choice. But the fight in Macedonia, he said, must be co-ordinated, not duplicated.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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