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How is Sonila Qato trying to escape the Kardhiq-Delvina tunnel affair?

How is Sonila Qato trying to escape the Kardhiq-Delvina tunnel affair?

The former director of the ARRSH, Sonila Qato, and the other defendants accused of the affair in the tender for the Kardhiq-Delvinë road tunnel, contested the prosecution's evidence, claiming their unusability, and raised claims that one of the experts appointed by the body the investigation has been convicted of forgery.

At the court session on Monday, April 22, for the criminal case against the former director of the Albanian Road Authority, ARRSH, Sonila Qato and other officials of this institution, the defendants presented their positions regarding the evidence of the prosecution.

Qato's legal representative, lawyer Vladimir Meçe, noted that in the prosecution's acts, no distinction is made between procedural acts and evidence, and that there are no facts to prove the violation of equality in tenders.

The lawyers of the defendants and they themselves contested the expert report drawn up by the experts appointed by the prosecution, raising claims that it was based on false data. According to them, the expert tunnels on the Arbër road have not been completed yet, even though five years have passed since the performance of that act-expertise.

Also, it was claimed that the experts assigned by the prosecution were unlicensed and that one of them was convicted of forgery. The defendants and their defense attorneys pointed out that a convicted expert cannot be trusted. One of the lawyers submitted a letter from the Court of Fier clarifying that she could not make the decision available to the expert, as she needed prosecutors from the latter. For this reason, she requested that the court be invested, but the court panel asked her to make a request once again to clarify the reason why she requested that decision.

Defendant Simon Prendi claimed that they are being accused of something they 'didn't want to do'. At the hearing, it was brought to attention that the tender for which they are accused was won by the whistleblower, the company "Gjoka", which, according to the defendants, plays the role of the victim.

They asked not to consider the evidence submitted by the prosecution, including the expert report, calling them unusable and illegal.

Also, it was requested that the three experts of the prosecution be called as witnesses, this request was accepted by the Court.

Prosecutor Elvin Gokaj noted that he did not hear anything regarding the finding that two acts with different data were carried out on the same day, for which the prosecuting body claims that forgery was carried out in order to aggravate the position of the reporting company. Gokaj also drew attention to the fact that the defendant Prendi, who was a member of the Bid Evaluation Committee, was appointed as a member of the working group to carry out on-site verifications of the works of the reporting company.

The defendant Almir Hoxha stated that the reports have different protocol numbers, a circumstance that, according to him, shows that they are not the same document. He claimed that one of the reports was compiled in general terms to be understood by all, while the other in technical terms, to be clearer to engineers.

At the end of the session, the presiding judge, judge Irena Gjoka, said that apart from proceeding with the questioning of the prosecutor's experts, the presentation of evidence from the defense will continue. The next session was postponed to April 26, at 10:30.

Sonila Qato and her subordinates are accused by SPAK of favoring a shadow company for the Skrfica tunnel tender on the Kardhiq-Delvina road.

ARRSH established a working group in 2019 to verify the works carried out by the company "Gjoka..." in the tunnels of the Arbër road, which were granted to it with a concession by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy. The control came after this company competed for the 19 million euro tender on the Kardhiq - Delvina road, claiming that it was unfairly disqualified.

According to SPAK, ARRSH has initiated an administrative investigation for the implementation of the concession contract of the Arbri road, producing false data to argue the disqualification of the company "Gjoka" from the tender. The prosecution accuses the members of the working group of "Forgery of documents", with the argument that they prepared two reports on the same day that differ in content.

Also, it is claimed that the content of these reports has resulted in contradiction with the documentation submitted by the association of operators "Gjoka Konstruksion", as well as they have been evaluated by the prosecution as completely different from the data obtained from the minutes of the investigation carried out by the Police Judicial or the act of expertise performed by experts appointed by SPAK.

SPAK finds, among other things, that the defendant Simon Prendi was simultaneously a member of the KVO and the working group, being in an open conflict of interest situation./BIRN

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