Authorities in Kosovo have detained dozens of police officers after drivers filed complaints about traffic police asking them for bribes. The operation was part of a wider government crackdown on corruption.
Police inspectorate chief Hilmi Mehmeti told reporters that the 59 were mainly from the northern town of Mitrovica, which is mostly Albanian but has a Serb minority. Of those arrested, 23 officers were Serbs, one was Bosniak and the rest Albanian.
"They were arrested after a four-month investigation," Mehmeti said, adding that it had been conducted through secret surveillance with the use of audio and video recordings showing officers involved in bribery incidents.
In a statement, police said that after being interviewed the suspects "were sent to a detention center where they will stay for the next 48 hours," adding that "all the officers have been suspended."
The government hailed the operation as "evidence of an uncompromising commitment of Kosovo institutions in the fight against organized crime and corruption."
Charges are also to be filed against 30 members of the public for allegedly offering bribes.
West calls for stronger efforts on corruption
Western governments who have supported Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 have called for stronger efforts to contain corruption. Graft and organized crime have been cited as obstacles to foreign investment in the country.
The European Commission recently welcomed the "positive steps Kosovo has taken to improve the rule of law," but added that Kosovo needed to "further intensify its fight against organized crime and corruption."
Serbia, backed by Russia, has declined to recognize Kosovo together with most ethnic Serbs within Kosovo.
jm/cmk (Reuters, AFP)