Albania's food safety boss sacked over 'moonshine' arrest

TIRANA, March 19 Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:20pm EDT

TIRANA, March 19 (Reuters) - Albania's prime minister sacked the country's food safety chief on Wednesday after it emerged that he had been arrested in 2012 for selling illicit home-made alcohol.

Aleksander Kalemaj was never prosecuted, but his arrest for involvement in a 'moonshine' operation has embarrassed Prime Minister Edi Rama.

"After checks requested by the prime minister, employee Aleksander Kalemaj has been relieved of his duties and no longer serves as Head of the Food Sector at the Risk Management Department of the National Food Authority," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

Rama was forced to act after Albanian media revealed Kalemaj had been caught by police in October 2012 in possession of more than 500 litres of illicit alcohol including brandy and beer.

The interior ministry confirmed to Reuters that the arrest - 18 months before Kalemaj's appointment as food safety chief - had taken place.

The opposition said the affair showed weaknesses in the way the government appointed people to senior positions.

"Edi Rama talks at length about merit and professionalism and cites examples from Britain and France, but when it comes to delicate jobs with great public responsibility he lets the wolf guard the sheep," Democratic Party lawmaker Voltana Ademi told reporters. (Reporting By Benet Koleka; Editing by Matt Robinson and Robin Pomeroy)

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