Kosovo: Arrest Follows Electricity Funds Probe

Ex-international official is questioned following the alleged disappearance of millions of euro from the protectorate.

Kosovo: Arrest Follows Electricity Funds Probe

Ex-international official is questioned following the alleged disappearance of millions of euro from the protectorate.

A former top international official in Kosovo has been arrested by the German police in connection with the alleged misappropriation of millions of euros earmarked for vital reconstruction projects.

Bernd Bieniossek, a spokesman for the state prosecutor in the German city of Bochum, told I WPR that Jo Trutschler, a German national who headed the Kosovo Electric Corporation, KEK, had been arrested on December 4.

Trutschler is being questioned over the alleged mishandling of 4.5 million euro, contributed by foreign donors for the rehabilitation of Kosovo's energy sector.

This is the first arrest of a former employee of an international organisation in Kosovo. While he has not been charged with any offence, an investigation is now underway and is expected to last for around two months.

The case is being seen as the most high-profile instance of abuse of international funds in the protectorate since the armed conflict ended in 1999, and a United Nations administration replaced the Serb authorities.

Andy Bearpark, head of reconstruction and economic development in the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, said on December 5 that Trutschler had been arrested in Bochum, Germany, the previous day.

The detention in Germany followed an investigation by the European Union's anti-corruption office, OLAF, which then passed its findings to the German authorities. The EU had provided the bulk of the missing money.

The money is alleged to have disappeared in 2001, when Kosovo was in the grip of a severe energy crisis. The scandal emerged in April this year.

The news has come as a shock to the two million inhabitants of the protectorate. Locals were earlier angered to discover that the province's two electricity plants, known as Kosova A and B, were unable to supply sufficient power to meet their needs in spite of a recent 130 million euro upgrade funded by the EU.

The alleged theft occurred as the provincial authorities tried to cover the energy deficit by importing extra power from neighboring Bulgaria. It appears that a certain amount of the imported electricity was sold to Serbia, and the profits deposited in a bank account in Gibraltar.

Earlier this year, IWPR contacted Trutschler and asked him to explain why he was under investigation by OLAF, but he declined to comment. At that time, nobody knew where he was staying, but it has recently emerged that he has been living in Spain.

Speaking to IWPR, KEK alleged that Trutschler had last October authorised the transfer to Gibraltar of another sum of money - apparently to pay for consulting services rendered to KEK - and later returned all the funds to the company account. Kek officials said they were never informed of the details of the firm involved nor recieved a proper explanation about the nature of the alleged consulting service.

Trutschler resigned in February - two months before the second scandal became public - citing health reasons for his departure.

After he left, media reports claim that his colleagues discovered unpaid telephone bills amounting to several thousand euro.

The money is now on its way back to the protectorate from Gibraltar. Around 3.5 million has already been returned, and the rest is due over the next few days.

In the meantime, Kosovo is still suffering from power shortages. Energy blackouts are happening for long periods of every day.

Adriatik Kelmendi is an editor and Astrit Gashi a journalist with the daily Koha Ditore in Kosovo.

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