• Top ex-Albanian official arrested on suspicion of corruption

    Updated:
    TIRANA, Albania (AP) - Albanian police say that a former head of the prison department has been arrested on suspicion of corruption.

    Authorities announced the arrest of Arben Cuko in a statement on Sunday.

    Cuko, who previously was head of the National Guard and also is an ex-lawmaker of the governing Socialist Party, was fired in September as prisons chief after little more than a year in the post.

    Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is also Socialist Party leader, tweeted that he was "sorry for A. Cuko but for us there is no double standard when referring to the law."

    Police reported another arrest late Sunday, saying that Socialist ex-lawmaker Arben Ndoka was suspected of being involved in a group that falsified documents for the sale of public land in Lezhe, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the capital, Tirana.

    Ndoka's arrest follows a major investigation by the Serious Crime Prosecutor's Office and the recent arrests of about two dozen other people in the case. They are accused of preparing fake documentation for about 30 hectares (75 acres) of public land and selling it at symbolic prices to fictitious owners. It was then sold at high prices for development as tourist resorts.

    Cuko and Ndoka haven't immediately commented about the accusations in their separate cases.

    Albania hopes to launch negotiations next year to join the European Union, and fighting corruption is one of the key areas that the country needs to work on before those talks can begin.

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