Opposition says waste-management investments are corrupt

Opposition says waste-management investments are corrupt

TIRANA, Nov. 27 – The head of the Albanian opposition, Lulzim Basha, said this week the proposed construction of three incinerators in the cities of Tirana, Fier and Elbasan was a “corrupt affair.” According to Basha, Prime Minister Edi Rama

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‘Orphan Children’s Week’ brings together art, culture and politics

‘Orphan Children’s Week’ brings together art, culture and politics

TIRANA, Nov. 27 – “Orphaned Children’s Week”, an activity organized by President Ilir Meta, in cooperation with the National Institute for the Integration of Albanian Orphans, gathered prominent figures in the fields of culture, art and politics that support and

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‘Cleaning Albania’ initiative launched nationally

‘Cleaning Albania’ initiative launched nationally

TIRANA, Nov. 24 – The national operation “Cleaning Albania” began on Friday and in every city, neighborhood and school youth mobilized in order to gain a cleaner Albania. This operation is scheduled to end in the summer of 2018, aiming

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Educational pilot project to be launched in four municipalities

Educational pilot project to be launched in four municipalities

TIRANA, Nov. 24 – “Doing homework at school” is a pilot project in the field of education that will first be implemented in 20 schools, in the municipalities of Korça, Elbasan, Fier and Lezhë apart from the capital. The project,

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Albania and Kosovo sign bilateral economic and political agreements

Albania and Kosovo sign bilateral economic and political agreements

KORÇË, Nov. 27 – High-ranking state representatives of both Kosovo and Albania gathered in Korça and Vlora during Albania’s independence festivities, to sign cooperation agreements and memorandums that will serve both countries’ economic and political strategic interests. Among them were

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President Meta visits southern Serbia, aiming to bridge differences

President Meta visits southern Serbia, aiming to bridge differences

MEDVEGJA, Nov. 26 – President Ilir Meta visited the region of Medvegja, in the southern Serbia on Sunday, as part of the renewed efforts to strengthen the relations of Albania and Serbia, but also to encourage the cooperation of the

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Tahiri’s four years as interior minister under investigation

Tahiri’s four years as interior minister under investigation

TIRANA, Nov. 30 – Albania’s former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri’s period at the helm of the ministry will get a renewed audit by serious crimes prosecutors investigating his alleged ties to cannabis trafficking, officials said this week. The move comes

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Greek police stop cannabis-transporting Albanian speedboat

Greek police stop cannabis-transporting Albanian speedboat

TIRANA, Nov. 26 – Greek Coast Guard officers successfully completed an operation Saturday, seizing a speedboat transporting almost 2 tons of cannabis originating from Albania’s southern coast. Two Albanians and one Italian that were on the speedboat were arrested after

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Prosecutors issue arrest warrants for three former police officials

Prosecutors issue arrest warrants for three former police officials

TIRANA, Nov. 23 – The General Prosecutor’s Office has issued arrest warrants for three former high-ranking police officials who had served in the Vlora region as part of an investigation tied to the Habilaj gang. Prosecutors to suspect the officials

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Kurbin residents protest against poverty and discrimination

Kurbin residents protest against poverty and discrimination

KURBIN, Nov. 21 – Hundreds of students, residents and parents of schoolchildren protested this week against poverty and discrimination in Lezha’s Kurbin municipality, northern Albania. The protesters claimed their province, which has not been properly looked after for years now,

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 27 – The head of the Albanian opposition, Lulzim Basha, said this week the proposed construction of three incinerators in the cities of Tirana, Fier and Elbasan was a “corrupt affair.”

According to Basha, Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Finance and Economy Arben Ahmetaj are the hidden owners of the companies set to build the incinerators.

Ahmetaj, on the other hand, replied to Basha saying the three projects were internationally certified and backed up, with a total of €54 million for investment and construction costs.

Basha called on state auditors and prosecutors to begin investigating these accusations, claiming that the construction companies are owned by the same person, who simply serves as a cover-up for the real owners – Rama and Ahmetaj.

“The incinerators’ projects have been uncovered to be corrupt and criminal. All three are controlled by one person, who serves as a puppet hiding the real owners, and it is clear that the real owners are Arben Ahmetaj and Edi Rama,” Basha said. “In total, according to the documents in our disposal, we are talking about €400 million that will be paid throughout 20 years for the construction of these incinerators and the tariffs will be paid by Albanian taxpayers.”

Ahmetaj, however, said that, within seven years, Elbasan and Fier municipalities will own two incinerators whose total investment and service costs mount to €54 million, including taxes.

He added the Tirana incinerator might not even be built as it is a proposal at this time.

“While he has not stated anywhere the $1 million discovered across the ocean, the source of which no one but him knows where it comes from, but what we do know is they illegally flowed to badmouth Albania and the Socialist government with slander mud, he declares today that Albania and its citizens’ healthcare is being destroyed by three internationally certified projects,” Ahmetaj said, replying to Basha’s comments.

Ahmetaj’s statement concerning the $1 million refers to recent accusations towards the Democratic Party and its electoral campaign costs used to purchase U.S. lobbying services.

SP says secret payments through an offshore company towards lobbying US companies were discovered this week.

While asking the Prosecution’s Office to investigate, the Socialist Party also called for transparency and an explanation concerning the money source.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 27 – “Orphaned Children’s Week”, an activity organized by President Ilir Meta, in cooperation with the National Institute for the Integration of Albanian Orphans, gathered prominent figures in the fields of culture, art and politics that support and wish to strengthen the future perspective of children without parents in the country, especially in the fields of education and healthcare.

“Investing in the healthy development and scholar education of children without parental care, with the goal of worthily integrating them in society, is a future investment in society,” Meta stressed, while visiting the children of the village SOS in Tirana, as well as the orphanage ‘Ana dhe Rozana’.

During the meeting Meta had with the orphaned children and their caretakers at SOS village, he stressed that solidarity and support among influential figures towards children without parental care will be a priority, and that this week dedicated to them through activities and meetings is just the beginning.

Another initiative in the context of this activity was an art exposition, which opened at the Presidency and gathered children and artists alike.

Names such as Ardit Gjebrea, Soni Malaj, Venera Lumani and Bindi Islami praised Meta's commitment to organizing this awareness-raising event and his solidarity and support towards children without parental care. In the activity that was attended by the children of the "Zyber Hallulli" orphanage in Tirana and students of the "Sami Frashëri" high school, well-known artists expressed their own solidarity towards children without parental care.

Tirana Mayor, Erion Veliaj, also joined Meta’s initiative in encouraging orphaned children to pursue their path despite the lack of support naturally granted to other children.

“Today more than ever in Albania there are many who give you a hand when you fall, certainly there are also those who laugh when someone falls, but in fact most give you a hand. I am glad that this time not only the society but also the institutions have come together to give a hand to anyone who at some point has overturned their life, but that one has to rush forward and move on to success,” Veliaj said.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 24 – The national operation “Cleaning Albania” began on Friday and in every city, neighborhood and school youth mobilized in order to gain a cleaner Albania. This operation is scheduled to end in the summer of 2018, aiming to preserve a clean Albania not just for its citizens, but also for the tourists and the tourism sector, which is expected to significantly grow in the following years.

“Together with 160 thousand other volunteers we are working throughout Albania and calling this a great day, a day where even more youth needs to join us so that together with local authorities we can continue working not just on this day, but during the entire 6-month-timeframe, so that tourism finds our country clean next year and with many similar operations to make sure Albania never sees this present kind of pollution,” Blendi Klosi, Minister for Tourism and Environment, said.

For the first time, neighboring Kosovo also joined this operation against pollution and waste, only a few days before both countries’ governments signed an agreement, among others, for the mutual protection and enrichment of the environment.

“Albania and Kosovo have natural beauties that are worth preserving. This is for me a first initiative including both Kosovo and Albania. I call all Albanians and Kosovars to unite and clean our country,” Albena Reshitaj, Minister of the Environment in Kosovo, said.

In Tirana, students of the ‘Petronini Luarasi’ high school joined the national initiative when, along with the Municipality of Tirana, they helped clean waste from different polluted areas in town. Parallel to cleaning the most key polluted areas in Tirana, the operation has also extended to the most touristic areas of the country, the national parks and the Dajti Mountain.

The improved infrastructure and the transformation that Tirana has undergone throughout have made the number of tourists visiting the capital increase 2.4 times. Within two years, the Municipality of Tirana has reformed the entire waste-cleaning system in the capital, aiming to significantly improve the quality of life.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 24 – “Doing homework at school” is a pilot project in the field of education that will first be implemented in 20 schools, in the municipalities of Korça, Elbasan, Fier and Lezhë apart from the capital. The project, which aims at increasing grade equality among students, will consist of creating appropriate learning environments for students so that they can stay longer at school and finalize their homework with the help of their teachers.

Besa Shahini, Deputy Minister for Education, who gave the first important information regarding the pilot project, stressed on the importance of expanding it further than the capital and its main goal, which is helping students that are left behind achieve higher results and be academically equal with their peers.

“There are 4 more municipalities, those of Korça, Elbasan, Fier and Lezha. The goal is to help children, especially those who are left a bit behind in their studies, so that we can increase the equality between students; 2nd graders can stay at school for an extra 2 or more hours, while 6th, 8th and 9th graders will stay 2 hours and a half, or more, depending on the time necessary to complete their homework,” Shahini said.

She also clarified on the method chosen to determine which classes require more help from teachers, and who will be the professionals that will stay at school after hours.

“We will monitor which are the students’ needs for more help. The focus will be placed on Albanian language and sciences because those are the subjects that students experience more problems with according to the PISA test. According to students’ needs, the teachers will also be determined. It will be a combination among teachers working the morning shift, we will take on extra hours, teachers from other schools and practicing teachers,” Shahini added.

Another issue regarding this pilot project is whether lunch will be provided for the children staying longer in school, and who will be the provider.

“As for the lunch, that is something the municipality will take on as a responsibility. Tirana’s municipality is already implementing several models. Different regions have different capacities, according to their municipalities’ budget. In cooperation with the Ministry of Healthcare and Agriculture, we are drafting a menu, a list of foods as suggestions for parents, so light foods that don’t go bad if stocked,” Shahini stated.

During the summer of 2018, an evaluation of the pilot project has been scheduled in order to examine the future regions it could be expanded to during its second year. However, this choice will highly depend on which schools will be freed from operating in two shifts because of the abundance of students registered in them.

 
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                    [post_content] => KORÇË, Nov. 27 – High-ranking state representatives of both Kosovo and Albania gathered in Korça and Vlora during Albania’s independence festivities, to sign cooperation agreements and memorandums that will serve both countries’ economic and political strategic interests.

Among them were cooperation memorandums for environmental protection, cultural cooperation and diaspora involvement.

The first gathering, held in Korça, finalized the signing of the first twelve agreements, which were discussed in detail during the meeting of Prime Minister Edi Rama and Kosovo counterpart Ramush Haradinaj.

“This gathering speaks for itself of a balance of great achievements and important commitments, based on what we’ve done so far. We have taken these commitments upon our shoulders rest assured that there is much more to be done and that the opportunities are there. Practically, since the first meeting in Prizren, we have enriched this context of cooperation with some important elements,” Rama said during the press conference that followed the two prime ministers’ meeting.  

Rama also publicly addressed the fact these meetings can be interpreted as provocations towards and in Serbia.

“Gatherings are not provocations, but meetings aiming to better the work we have already done and the work that we can still do in the future. They are well-defined steps towards a common strategic direction. Regardless of being separated into two nations, the Albanian world is one,” Rama said.

The ministers of the Rama and Haradinaj cabinets also signed a technical protocol between the two Ministries of Agriculture for the bilateral recognition of veterinary certificates for animal and non-animal products between the countries amid a number of memorandums aiming to ease trade between the countries.

They also agreed on the recognition of social contributions and on the cooperation between the two countries’ Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the common context of European Integration.

Rama was also asked for a statement regarding the issuing of Albanian passports to Kosovo citizens in order to help them with free movement in Europe, a suggestion given a few weeks ago by Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi during a meeting with his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Meta.

Meta’s response to his suggestion was that issuing passports would be a counterproductive move for both Kosovo and Albania, which still needs to be careful with its visa-free movement in Europe. Concerning this subject, Rama agreed with Meta and, keeping his statement brief, said he had nothing more to add to the discussion.

Haradinaj, who said that Korça is a meaningful location for the finalization of the 12 agreements as a center of Albanian patriotism and learning, also highlighted the intensive work being done to further simplify border crossing between the two countries.

“We also have a protocol for border crossing, which entirely simplifies crossing and we are working on customs unification. Kosovo is still behind on this process, nevertheless we are working on it,” Haradinaj said.

 
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                    [post_content] => MEDVEGJA, Nov. 26 – President Ilir Meta visited the region of Medvegja, in the southern Serbia on Sunday, as part of the renewed efforts to strengthen the relations of Albania and Serbia, but also to encourage the cooperation of the all the countries in the region, officials said.

Meta met with the Serbian commune officials representing the areas of Presheva, Bujanoc and Medvegja, as well as ethnic Albanian residents of the area and a number of Albanians at the border point of Mutivoda.

“This is a beautiful day for me. I feel excited to be here among you. Politics should give more attention to the Albanians living here and all the areas around here. I hope my visit makes a clear contribution in this direction. From Medvegja, I want to stress that the future of our nation and of the entire region is in the European Union, and this can only be achieved by cooperating even more closely with each other,” Meta said, addressing the crowd.

Meta also gathered the ethnic Albanians of the region, and those coming from Medvegja but living abroad, for a dinner during which the president was given a thanking plaque and the monograph of the Medvegja Humanitarian Association.

According to statistics, out of the approximate 7,000 people living in Medvegja, 520 belong to the Albanian ethnic minority – a number swaying each time ethnic Albanians return to the commune to visit friends, property or vote in local elections.

Meta is the first Albanian President to visit the Medvegja. There, as well as in Bujanoc and Presheva, the number of the ethnic Albanian minority used to be much higher, but political and economic pressures have forced many to move.

Traditional annual festivities, such as ‘Meetings of the Birthplace’, that bring together all Medvegja citizens living abroad or in other communes, are some of the only testifiers of Medvegja’s past.

Yet, visits similar to those of Meta have been interpreted as signs that efforts are being made to change the direction of the two countries’ past relations of mutual hostility.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 30 – Albania’s former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri’s period at the helm of the ministry will get a renewed audit by serious crimes prosecutors investigating his alleged ties to cannabis trafficking, officials said this week.

The move comes after businessman Orest Sota was found with €863,000 in his car, a sum prosecutors suspect belongs to Tahiri. The two men are believed to have ties, according to prosecutors.

The business activities of both Orest Sota and his father have been put under the magnifying glass since the the young businessman was stopped with the cash and IDs belonging to Tahiri in the vehicle.

Prosecutors aim to verify all tenders won by the Sota companies and the possible implications with Tahiri.

Media outlets have reported that a Sota-owned company, Eco Construction and Partners, was subcontracted for the reconstruction of Commissariat Nr. 6, one of Tirana’s largest police station buildings. The tender was valued at more than ALL 200 million (about Euro 1.5 million).

Six prosecutors are handling the Habilaj-Tahiri case, divided into three working groups. One of these is investigating the wealth and properties of all parties involved, including Orest Sota and his relatives. Another group is solely investigating Tahiri and his alleged ties with marijuana trafficking and high-rank corruption, a case made public after the Italian police targeted an Albanian-Italian narcotics-trafficking gang, part of which were the Habilaj brothers, with whom Tahiri is alleged to have ties.

The third working group is looking into the ties between the State Police and the drug-trafficking gangs, also in accordance to a report issued by the Intelligence Service.

Three former police officials are already facing arrest warrants as part of the investigation. Prosecutors suspect the officials in question allowed the Habilaj brothers to grow cannabis and conduct their illegal trafficking business in the Vlora area.

Police were unable to arrest their former colleagues, according to the Ministry of Interior, which issued a statement last week, saying they were not at home. The men are believed to have fled the country. 

Material evidence considered valuable for future investigations has been seized from the suspects’ houses and other premises and sent to the prosecutors’ offices.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-30 08:19:30
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 26 – Greek Coast Guard officers successfully completed an operation Saturday, seizing a speedboat transporting almost 2 tons of cannabis originating from Albania’s southern coast.

Two Albanians and one Italian that were on the speedboat were arrested after a chase that lasted almost 48 hours before coming to an end near the Greek island of Xia. 

It involved a shootout at sea between the traffickers and police, leaving at least one man wounded.

The Greek Coast Guard said it was an operation aiming to tackle an international network of cannabis trafficking. Police said that in addition to the three people arrested on the speedboat, seven more were detained during the following hours, both in Athens and along the land routes the cannabis load was to be picked up, among whom Italians, Greeks and possibly a Bulgarian. 

An Albanian media correspondent in Greece reported that one of the arrested Albanians was wounded during the operation and is now being treated in a hospital in Athens.

Greek media reported the speedboat is suspected to have left Albania on Friday evening, while the shipment was destined to reach both Greece and Italy. 

According to Greek police services, the authorities in charge of covering the Ionian Sea began chasing the speedboat north of the Island of Corfu, which neighbors the south of Albania.

Sources added that the men in charge of the operation, which started in Ionian waters, allowed the speedboat to arrive in the Aegean Sea, in an open sea area, as the only way to catch up with the speedboat. During the operation, in order to assist the Greek marine ships, the helicopters of the Greek Air Force were involved in the chase.  

In addition to the cannabis shipment, the Greek forces reportedly also confiscated four guns from the speedboat, while noting the quantity of the narcotics had likely been larger, but some was thrown at sea by the suspects during the chase along with Kalashnikov guns used to shoot back at the police.

 
                    [post_title] => Greek police stop cannabis-transporting Albanian speedboat
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-24 10:23:52
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 23 – The General Prosecutor’s Office has issued arrest warrants for three former high-ranking police officials who had served in the Vlora region as part of an investigation tied to the Habilaj gang.

Prosecutors to suspect the officials in question allowed the Habilaj brothers to grow cannabis conduct their illegal trafficking business in the Vlora area.

Police were unable to arrest their former colleagues, however, as they were unable to locate them, according to the Ministry of Interior, which issued a statement Thursday, saying they were not at home.

The Service for Internal Affairs and Complaints has declared the citizens S. Bode, J. Çela and Gj. Kohila wanted at large as of Nov. 22, while working on their detention and arrest.

Former Chief of the Post of the Border Police in Vlora, S. Bode, who has already been associated with the Habilaj brothers in pictures made public by the political opposition, has been already sentenced with imprisonment.

After leaving his post in Vlora, Bode acted as Chief of Police in the city of Shkodra, where he was also directing the inspection sector.

The two other men – J. Çela, former Police Director in Vlora and Gj. Kohila, chief of the sector for the fight against organized crime, have been so far issued detaining orders. The official charge against them is inaction towards cannabis cultivation in the district during the time they were in charge – from 2014 to 2016.

Material evidence considered valuable for future investigations have been sequestered from the houses and other premises and have been sent to the Prosecution’s Office.

At this time, the three men are not in charge of any state or police functions. They were discharged from their duty by Minister of Interior, Fatmir Xhafaj, but were to remain available for the necessary investigations against them and the ongoing Habilaj-Tahiri case.

This is only one in a series of investigations and arrests following the revelation of suspected ties between former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri and the Habilaj gang – part of a bigger criminal organization specializing in cannabis trafficking from Albania to Italy.

Tahiri, one of the longest serving ministers of interior, who was in office from September 2013 to March 2017, faced calls for his arrest after his name came up in wiretaps in the case, published by Italians police.

However, he has denied any wrongdoing, saying the request for his arrest is politically motivated.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-24 10:20:32
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-24 09:20:32
                    [post_content] => KURBIN, Nov. 21 – Hundreds of students, residents and parents of schoolchildren protested this week against poverty and discrimination in Lezha’s Kurbin municipality, northern Albania.

The protesters claimed their province, which has not been properly looked after for years now, needs more attention and care by the responsible state institutions.

Students of all Kurbin’s schools and their parents, in particular, have taken to the streets holding signs expressing the abundant lack of rights and services in their lives, hoping to grab the attention of state authorities.

The Head of the European Union Delegation to Albania, Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, joined the youth’s protest backed by the World Vision organization, in a sign of support of the community’s rights and requests.

Kurbin’s youth mainly protested against discrimination and human trafficking, as well as against the various difficulties the town’s youth faces through their daily lives. They raised their voices for their rights in a town that is home to 76 gambling places but no cultural centre, while the public library has not been updated with new books in 20 years.

“Those promising that they want youth to study are not giving us material basis, as if sending us to war without weapons – this is the equivalent of not filling libraries with books. And I feel disappointed in many occasions, because you may happen to be a youth that wants to move forward, and this chance is not given to you. But I am certain that if we all gather together and make our voices heard, there is no option for them but to listen to us,” Brajan Dukaj, a student and youth organization activist, told the Voice of America in an interview.

In this context, the youth also submitted a petition to the Kurbin Municipality, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection. The petition requested the establishment of a youth centre for cultural activities, more investments in educational institutions and better healthcare for Kurbin’s youth.

In addition, protesters asked for their voice and opinion to be heard and considered from decision-making entities that choose for them, and to monitor the implementation of youth state policies.

“Among the various problems I can mention the work of youth and children, the lack of hope, apathy and laziness in an environment that offers no proper ways to spend the time, their exposition to often dangerous situations, violence, threats, mockery and mistreatments. The main message forwarded by the youth and children today was that if we want to see change, we have to bring change together; when youth raises its voice, asks for its rights and becomes involved in the creation of a just society,” Eliona Elmazi, from World Vision, told VoA.  

Kurbin is one of the poorest areas of Albania, whose economic hardships have closely influenced the socio-cultural aspect of life and rendered it weak.

 
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            [post_date] => 2017-12-01 10:36:32
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 27 – The head of the Albanian opposition, Lulzim Basha, said this week the proposed construction of three incinerators in the cities of Tirana, Fier and Elbasan was a “corrupt affair.”

According to Basha, Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Finance and Economy Arben Ahmetaj are the hidden owners of the companies set to build the incinerators.

Ahmetaj, on the other hand, replied to Basha saying the three projects were internationally certified and backed up, with a total of €54 million for investment and construction costs.

Basha called on state auditors and prosecutors to begin investigating these accusations, claiming that the construction companies are owned by the same person, who simply serves as a cover-up for the real owners – Rama and Ahmetaj.

“The incinerators’ projects have been uncovered to be corrupt and criminal. All three are controlled by one person, who serves as a puppet hiding the real owners, and it is clear that the real owners are Arben Ahmetaj and Edi Rama,” Basha said. “In total, according to the documents in our disposal, we are talking about €400 million that will be paid throughout 20 years for the construction of these incinerators and the tariffs will be paid by Albanian taxpayers.”

Ahmetaj, however, said that, within seven years, Elbasan and Fier municipalities will own two incinerators whose total investment and service costs mount to €54 million, including taxes.

He added the Tirana incinerator might not even be built as it is a proposal at this time.

“While he has not stated anywhere the $1 million discovered across the ocean, the source of which no one but him knows where it comes from, but what we do know is they illegally flowed to badmouth Albania and the Socialist government with slander mud, he declares today that Albania and its citizens’ healthcare is being destroyed by three internationally certified projects,” Ahmetaj said, replying to Basha’s comments.

Ahmetaj’s statement concerning the $1 million refers to recent accusations towards the Democratic Party and its electoral campaign costs used to purchase U.S. lobbying services.

SP says secret payments through an offshore company towards lobbying US companies were discovered this week.

While asking the Prosecution’s Office to investigate, the Socialist Party also called for transparency and an explanation concerning the money source.

 
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