Bank of Albania governor under pressure after theft probe

12/08/2014

The demand comes after the bank announced employees stole millions over a four-year period.

By Lindita Komani for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 12/08/14

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Albania central bank governor Ardian Fullani announced theft of more than $7 million by bank employees. [AFP]

Civil society in Albania is calling for the Bank of Albania governor to resign after it was revealed that bank employees stole more than $7 million over a four-year period.

The bank's commission on money circulation and inventory discovered the theft and informed the country's prosecutor office in late July.

The police have arrested 10 bank employees so far, including a department director, and are conducting an investigation.

The bank promptly replaced the unit heads at the money issuing department and two controllers at the security and protection department. It also announced it has appointed a new director.

But civil society organised protests in front of Bank of Albania offices in Tirana demanding bank governor Ardian Fullani's resignation.

Civil society representatives said the theft has shown the corruption in the bank and has weakened trust in the country's most senior banking office holder. "People are demanding the governor's resignation or his being discharged by parliament. Furthermore, they ask that a parliamentary commission investigate theft and abuse in this institution," Zirkov Disha, protest organiser, told SETimes.

Others said that the theft at the heart of the country's premier financial institution is a crippling demonstration of corruption.

"Fullani established a banking law system in which the consumer could never protect himself against private banks. This has cost Albanian citizens billions and has caused the ruination of their well-being and life," Altin Goxhaj, director of the Consumer Protection Office, an NGO in Tirana, told SETimes.

Parliament appoints the bank's governor based on a recommendation by the country's president. Fullani began a term of seven years in 2011.

The government said it wants to reassure citizens that it is carefully following the investigation.

"The government deems as equally important both the need for an exemplary punishment of the culprits, and exemplary positioning of the Bank of Albania upfront by respecting its independence," the government said in a statement on August 6th.

The Albanian Association of Banks issued a statement last week to reassure the public that financial flows are not affected.

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"Despite the grave incident, the entire financial system has undertaken the necessary measures to ensure a normal liquidity supply to the inter-bank market, while the commercial banks are constantly committed to comply strictly with the regulatory framework and take the necessary measures for the accomplishment of security and safety functions," it said.

However, civil society representatives said the issue is much more than a technical monetary matter and if the governor does not resign or is not removed, they will step up protests.

"Albanian citizens have to be treated with dignity by the political class and the civil servants who get paid with taxes. Albanian citizens cannot be robbed infinitely," Disha said.

What can Albania authorities do to stem theft in public financial institutions? Share your opinion in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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