Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender

Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – New evidence made public on Wednesday show the company DH Albania – which won the government tender to build one lot of the Great Ring road currently under construction by using falsified documents of US offshore

Read Full Article

Editorial: A foreign minister that cannot be the face and the voice of Albania in the world

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The newly appointed Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, the 28 years old boy from Kosovo who has three Bachelor degrees and two masters, cannot represent Albania in the world. He cannot be the face

Read Full Article
Albanian President rejects new foreign minister

Albanian President rejects new foreign minister

TIRANA, Jan. 10 – Albania’s President, Ilir Meta, rejected on Wednesday evening Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to appoint 28-year-old, Kosovo national Gent Cakaj as the new foreign minister, creating a new rift in the President-PM relationship. In a public

Read Full Article
Corrupt district judge’s arrest highlights need for all-inclusive justice reform

Corrupt district judge’s arrest highlights need for all-inclusive justice reform

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albanian investigative TV show Stop published a video on Tuesday showing Fier judge Roland Hysi receiving monetary bribes and asking for sexual favors from a divorced woman in exchange of granting her daughter’s custody, proving the

Read Full Article
The Prime Minister burns down his house

The Prime Minister burns down his house

NEWS ANALYSIS  In an unprecedented move which was planned to shock and awe, the Prime Minister used the last days of 2018 to bring down his cabinet, removing and replacing the key members of his cabinet. The change in the

Read Full Article
Albania launches crackdown on illegal gambling following nationwide ban

Albania launches crackdown on illegal gambling following nationwide ban

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 8 – With a nationwide ban on gambling in force since Jan. 1, thousands of gambling businesses have officially closed down, bringing to an end what had become a booming industry, but a small number

Read Full Article
Albania oil workers redundant again as failed ARMO privatization saga continues

Albania oil workers redundant again as failed ARMO privatization saga continues

TIRANA, Jan. 7 – Hundreds of workers at Albania’s sole major oil refiner have temporarily remained jobless in a repeated scenario in the past decade following a failed privatization of the Armo oil refiner, where the Albanian government still holds

Read Full Article
BoA emergency purchases of €170 mln not enough to stop euro’s free fall

BoA emergency purchases of €170 mln not enough to stop euro’s free fall

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 7 – Albania’s central bank says it purchased around €170 million from the local currency exchange market in the second half of 2018, but its temporary emergency operations in the county’s free floating regime were

Read Full Article
Outgoing Albanian minister initiates new €59 mln concession after tax haven scandal

Outgoing Albanian minister initiates new €59 mln concession after tax haven scandal

TIRANA, Jan. 3 – Albania’s outgoing energy minister has initiated tender procedures for another big concession only few weeks after a scandal with an offshore tax haven that had €30 million in Albania public projects cancelled over cheating authorities with

Read Full Article
Albania expels Iranian Ambassador under terrorism concerns

Albania expels Iranian Ambassador under terrorism concerns

TIRANA, Dec. 20 – On Wednesday evening, local media reported Albania declared the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and one more diplomat as persona non-gratae, under suspicion they are involved in activities that jeopardize the

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 52
            [paged] => 4
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => premium
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 52
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 640
    [max_num_pages] => 64
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => b94dfbf28927c37d86ccedbb81bc0b18
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 52
            [paged] => 4
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (52) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 30, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140001
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-10 20:28:44
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-10 19:28:44
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - New evidence made public on Wednesday show the company DH Albania - which won the government tender to build one lot of the Great Ring road currently under construction by using falsified documents of US offshore company Dunwel Haberman - was favored by the Albanian administration, which issued a construction license prior to the company’s registration at the National Business Centre.

News 24 TV-show “The Unexposed,” uncovering how US offshore Dunwel Haberman had falsified its founding act and the signature of the Delaware Secretary of State to prove it had not legal issues in the US, also uncovered how DH Albania, its official branch, had won two government tenders mounting up to 30 million euros in the past year.

So far, in all public appearances, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has insisted this was a case of company fraud and, cancelling the tenders, parallely began a constitutional investigation.

“You can find companies that enter tender competitions using falsified documents everywhere in the world. A government, a minister, a ministry, should not be judged on whether a company enters the race with falsified documents. They are judged based on how they act when the facts are unveiled. Concerning this case, where is the corruption that has happened?” Rama said at the end of December, speaking about DH Albania.

However, information gathered by the Voice of America testify that Albanian institutions were put to the company’s full service, even in violation of laws and regulations.

According to an official response the infrastructure ministry issued to VOA’s information request, it results that "DH-ALBANIA Company, branch of the foreign company, with its request dated 13.07.2018, accompanied by the relevant documentation, has applied to have its foreign license recognized in the field of construction.”

The infrastructure ministry’s website also states, in the listed documentation necessary to recognize foreign licenses, that is is required for companies to submit proof of registration at the NBC, which among others proves the tie of the still-unlicensed company with the mother company and its active status, among others.

However, on July 13, when the application was made, DH Albania was still an non-existent company. Referring to the NBC, the company was registered there on July 18, run by unknown, 26-year-old Avdjol Dobi. 

This indicates the Licenses Commission Secretariat began procedures to legalize an non-existent entity which was unable to identify as DH Albania, as it was lacking NBC proof at the time.

The licenses commission, headed by Gerta Lubonja, appointed with a Council of Ministers decision, also consists of three ministry of infrastructure directors. 

VOA has shown that based on the predetermined deadlines of the commission’s activity, now removed from the website, “the documentation, accompanied by summarized material compiled by the Technical Secretariat, shall be made available to the members of the Commission three working days prior to the meeting’s set date.”

The license for DH Albania was issued at the July 30 meeting, which was on a Monday. Consequently, the documentation for it should have been submitted to the commission at least on July 25. But according to the official response of the infrastructure ministry, DH Albania has completed all the documents only on July 27.

The violations in favor of DH Albania suggest it was clear to the commission it was not simply helping Dobi, but also the people hiding behind the entire fraud - allegedly, the Albanian oligarch Bashkim Ulaj.

Certain facts made public by VoA, show that Dobi and Ulaj have family ties, in addition to the fact that Ulaj’s employees from his owned Gener 2 company helped fill up DH Albania’s documentation and made payments on its behalf.

The country’s prosecution, which is investigating as crimes both the fraud and the misuse of institutional duty, has not yet been able to call Dobi to testify although he is not known to have officially left Albania. 

The DH Albania case has been ignored by the government on the surface, while “The Unexposed” show host and journalist Ylli Rakipi reported his life was threatened two weeks after going public with the story. 

 
                    [post_title] => Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => evidence-shows-govt-institutions-helped-dh-albania-win-great-ring-project-tender
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 12:37:04
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 11:37:04
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140001
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140015
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-10 13:48:28
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-10 12:48:28
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The newly appointed Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, the 28 years old boy from Kosovo who has three Bachelor degrees and two masters, cannot represent Albania in the world. He cannot be the face of Albania in the meetings, conferences, summits and consultations where Albania takes part in the global arena. Gent Cakaj cannot be the voice of Albania in the delicate and complex negotiations with neighbors, regional countries or global powers. It is wrong to place this person at the helm of the country’s effort to join the European Union. He is simply not a minister who can represent our country in the right way in all the foreign policy developments and events around the world.

That said, we need to proceed with the reasons why.

First and foremost, the figure of the Minister of Foreign Affairs needs to encompass the genuine and therefore native language, culture, concerns, aspirations and archival knowledge of the country’s diplomacy. In this context the newly naturalized Cakaj’s uneasiness and accent, perceived lack of real connection with the issues of Albanian foreign policy and relative lack of experience is a true problem. He might have pursued several degrees and might have read all the relevant books, he is still deeply inappropriate. That is because countries chose to have at the top of their foreign policy a figure that can best summarize the whole country in one face and one voice. Cakaj is not that person. He might be brilliant but in this field he is still an amateur.

This year Albania will hold the chairmanship of one of the most important organizations in the worlds, the OSCE. Albania will celebrate its 10th anniversary of NATO membership. It will intensify its lobbying at the EU tor reach a positive decision at the Council in June for the opening of accession negotiations. Albania needs to restart the pending talks with Greece as well as pursue the Prime Minister’s ambitious agenda of Schengen dynamics with the immediate neighbors.

Considering the gravitas of this year and the symbolic and real weight of all these developments, one would expect that at the head of foreign policy the Prime Minister would either leave the former minister or appoint a figure of the most excellent background. Furthermore this figure would ideally generate some kind of consensus even on the side of the opposition since he or she represents the whole country in the international arena.

To step aside from all this responsibility and perform a magic trick, to shock and awe Albanians by choosing a random and anonymous however talented young boy with severely limited genuine knowledge of Albania and with a total lack of legitimacy since he is not a member of the Socialist party, is the worst act of political spectacle.

The Prime Minister said that he despises and pities those who are against this appointment on the grounds that Cakaj is from Kosovo. This is a cheap shot at playing the ostrich, hiding your head in the sand. Cakaj’s problems and deficiencies do not originate only form his origins which still play a part. Furthermore it would be an additional liability for Cakaj if the media comments that this a figure which stands behind a potential plan for the corrections of borders as a way to reach a Serbia-Kosovo solution, are true.

To assign a foreign minister just so there will be no objection to a plan that is still obscure, severely contradictory and controversial and about which the major powers still do not have a consensus or a concrete agenda is another faux pass of the government leader.

Albania is at one of the most vulnerable cross-roads of its transition path and its aspiration of EU membership, with all the complex challenges of foreign policy it entails and which require excellence, experience, grounding, leadership, communication and presentation skills. And if one watches the few videos that are available of Mr Cakaj performance, we might have just shot ourselves in the foot.

In this context, the President of the Republic has taken the right decision and with the right elaborate and serious motivation to refuse his appointment. One is left only with the hope that the Parliament will show the same thoroughness and not a knee-jerk reaction by overthrowing this decree as they have done in the past. This is the last call for reflection for the PM to find a minister that can be truly and deservedly the face and voice of Albania in the world.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: A foreign minister that cannot be the face and the voice of Albania in the world 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-a-foreign-minister-that-cannot-be-the-face-and-the-voice-of-albania-in-the-world
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-10 13:48:28
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-10 12:48:28
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140015
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140007
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-10 11:08:18
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-10 10:08:18
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 10 - Albania's President, Ilir Meta, rejected on Wednesday evening Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to appoint 28-year-old, Kosovo national Gent Cakaj as the new foreign minister, creating a new rift in the President-PM relationship.

In a public letter directed to Rama published by Meta himself, he addressed, as political experts have been doing over the last week, all the regional and global challenges Albanian diplomacy will be facing next year.

Some of these challenges include Albania’s upcoming OSCE presidency as part of the Trojka organization, its expectation to open accession negotiations with the EU and the need to take the normalization talks between Serbia and Kosovo further, and Meta wrote the country doesn’t have the time to experiment with the young deputy minister’s knowledge.

Further on, Meta told Rama that during his duty as deputy minister of Europe and foreign affairs, Cakaj has shown with facts and stands that he lacks the necessary experience in the field of diplomacy in addition to having expressed unacceptable public opinions on regional issues of vital importance.

The president stopped at some of Cakaj’s statements about the border correction idea between Serbia and Kosovo, which was strongly opposed by most experts after it was proposed a few months back.

Meta said those statements went against the official state response, which was to also oppose the border correction idea, and calls them “dangerous” in his letter. 

Cakaj has also shown according to the president lack of responsibility in exercising his deputy minister post by ignoring law and article enforcement that guarantees safe circulation of classified state information.

Moreover, Meta wrote that “in the way it has been conducted, the process of security verification for Mr. Cakaj does not guarantee the right reliability of the Security Certificates issued by the Directory of Secure Classified Information.

He argues the DSCI has conducted all necessary verification for the proposed foreign minister within a day, which is not enough time to conduct all necessary verifications according to the official procedures provided by state institutions.Meta also said that due to Cakaj’s dual citizenship and his obtained degrees in different countries, he would need an even more extensive verification.

“Mr. Gent Cakaj’s candidacy does not meet conditions, does not create reliability and does not offer the necessary guarantee for the objective and skilful exercise of a post so important as that of the minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. 

On thursday afternoon, Rama reacted to Meta’s decision with a tweet, calling the rejection “unconstitutional.”

“The President’s refusal to decree the new minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs is not only unconstitutional, but also embarrassing. The arguments used by the President are scary for their scandalous level and shameful for the institution. Apologies to Kosovo for this shame,” Rama tweeted.

However, other political actors have expressed support towards Meta’s stand on the issue.

“Rightful and totally justified rejection! You can’t mock the state and play with its boundaries,” Genc Pollo, MP and Head of the EU Integration Commission wrote on twitter.

Remzi Lani, head of the Albanian Media Institute and member of the European Advisory Board, said that Meta has actually given Rama a chance to revoke his “mistake” and appoint someone who is more capable and appropriate for the most important diplomatic post.
                    [post_title] => Albanian President rejects new foreign minister 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => president-doesnt-decree-foreign-ministers-dismissal-in-new-pm-president-clash
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-14 12:45:59
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-14 11:45:59
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140007
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139987
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-09 15:14:27
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-09 14:14:27
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - Albanian investigative TV show Stop published a video on Tuesday showing Fier judge Roland Hysi receiving monetary bribes and asking for sexual favors from a divorced woman in exchange of granting her daughter’s custody, proving the country’s judiciary reform has a long way to go before getting completely rid of the corruption that causes deep injustice.

On Wednesday, a day after the show aired and the hidden camera video went viral, state police announced it had arrested both Hysi and psychologist Elona Mecani, who played the role of mediator between the judge and the mother seeking her daughter’s custody.

As clearly seen in the hidden camera, the woman, who remained anonymous throughout the show, was asked by Mecani, to give Hysi 500 euros prior to the second hearing that would appoint the custody finally, meet up with him and give him 500 euros after the case was settled. 

“After the first court hearing ended, at the court's door, psychologist Elona Meçani brought me inside a room and told me I should speak to the judge. I did not understand why I had to do that, as i thought I had submitted all the documents that were asked of me. The judge did not speak in the presence of the secretary, rather the secretary came out and said she’d arrange a meeting for us at a bar. I've been living in France for seven years and Fier has changed, so I went,” the mother told Stop.

Explaining how she had been granted her daughter’s custody upon their divorce and then had to emigrate in France, leaving her daughter with her parents until the father decided to appeal the decision, the mother said she initially argued with the judge and then decided to contact investigative journalists and bring Hysi upon justice. 

The hidden cameras further showed the woman met with Hysi, who in addition to promising her he’d give her the custody in exchange for the money, also asked her sexual favors in return. Later on, the woman had to pay an extra 500 euros for judge Taulant Banushi, who was shortlisted to handle the case that had to be re-opened, and a fee for the mediator, psychologist Mecani. 

Over the last two weeks, three first instance court head judges have been ousted by the justice reform’s vetting process - the heads the Berat, Sarand and Korca courts - while head of the Shkodra court Arben Zefi is facing allegation of being involved with corruption by the Independent Qualification Commission. 

Since the official start of the vetting process in March 2018, the IQC has verified and ousted a big number of judges and prosecutors, mainly based on the three pillars - the cleanliness of figure, the accumulated wealth and professional skills.

The vetting process first verified those applying to become part of the country’s new and reformed justice system and it is set to then evaluate any individual holding a legal position in the country. 

As local and international rule of law organizations have criticized time and time again the prolonged time it is taking for the vetting process to be finalized and the clutter of criminal cases that has been created as a result of a partially functioning justice system, cases like judge Hysi’s prove that faster and much more intensive work needs to be done to claim the justice reform has really been implemented in Albania. 

 

 
                    [post_title] => Corrupt district judge’s arrest highlights need for all-inclusive justice reform 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => case-of-corrupt-albanian-district-judge-highlights-need-for-all-inclusive-justice-reform
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 12:24:28
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 11:24:28
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139987
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139980
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-09 13:46:15
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-09 12:46:15
                    [post_content] => 
NEWS ANALYSIS 
In an unprecedented move which was planned to shock and awe, the Prime Minister used the last days of 2018 to bring down his cabinet, removing and replacing the key members of his cabinet. The change in the key Ministries of Energy and Infrastructure, that of Europe and Foreign Affairs as well as Education, Culture and Agriculture indeed brought surprise to everyone. In addition, Rama replaced also the Deputy Prime Minister.
 
These are radical changes that come only one year after the Socialist Party received a popular mandate to govern. They come in the context of several key developments:
 
First and foremost the student protest that rocked the main university towns and the capital were massive and despite their refusal to be politicized their requests had to do with major changes about the way the Rama cabinet was governing. This is due to the fact that students asked and still are asking for the annulment of the Law on Higher Education, one of the most trumpeted so called achievements of this government. In essence, the student movement of December tore right through the heart of the large scale facade that the propaganda machine had painted with neon colors.
 
Additionally these protest were held alongside other perhaps smaller but still considerable protest from groups of the society which were hit hard by polices of the government in favor of the now famous PPP or concession beneficiaries. These protesters are in fact deprived or impoverished due to the fact that the government through mainly corruptive practices such as that unearthed in the case of the Tirana Outer Ring Road segment construction, are favoring the enrichment of a handful of oligarchs and monopolization of key sectors.
 
Indeed the scandal uncovered by the media in the case of the company that had forged documents to get the tender for the construction of the Ring Road part is one of the most abhorrent cases of flagrant corruption, of arrogance and impunity. This was a state- sponsored theft of no less than 45 million euro to give out to three companies without any competitive procedure to build less than 2.5 kilometers.
 
The state thieves’ enterprise used all their bag of tricks to expel any potential foreign companies from the tender procedure by dividing the segment of 2.2 kilometers into three parts so that the value would be less than 18 million euro for each, therefore exempting foreign capital from competition. At the same time the alibi of the tender was provided by a ridiculous offer of 0 lek by a ghost enterprise. The arrogance of pre-selection was open and did not take long to uncover the fraud company that had not shied away from forging documents from none less than the state of Delaware in the United States.
 
Dig a little deeper as investigative journalists did and the real deal behind it were unveiled to be one of the richest oligarchs’ company that has benefitted from other multiple construction tenders. Law enforcement was hesitant to proceed with investigation until the United States authorities opened its own inquiry. The government’s own explanation was that such forgeries could happen to anyone. In a cabinet rumored to check and assign even grants of 3000 euros it is ridiculous to believe that the control mechanism failed to catch inconsistencies in a 30 million project that would go to the same company that just months ago was allocated more than 450 million euro for a road connecting Tirana to the north.
 
Amidst these scandals, protest and palpable discontent of large social groups the Prime Minister brought down his key ministers therefore de-facto burning down his house in order to fight the pests that was risking his very power. Disregarding blatantly all the party institutions such as the leadership group and the spirit of consultation the Prime Minister did this in a show fashion during the Assembly meeting. The ministers’ reactions made it quickly clear that they had no forewarning and learned simultaneously with the public. This was unjustifiable as a political maneuver deprived of any trace of seriousness. It resembled in all details to the public processes where dictators would converse with the people and blame all ills on the administrators rather than on themselves. Even dictators had a better feeling of formal respect for party institutions. 
 
Right now it is painfully clear that the Socialist party is in its last gasps of breath and the Rilindje (Renaissance) movement which exists due to Rama and exclusively for him has taken over in every cell of political life of the majority.
 
Additionally and maybe most importantly the outgoing ministers are replaced with anonymous, unexperienced and unfit individuals which have no stature to hold these posts. They have no connection to the Socialist Party and the legitimacy it bestows upon the governance. The only exception is the deputy Prime Minister which realistically holds no executive power and not even any budget. The record of some of them as administrators of public companies is deeply concerning. The lack of record for some others such as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs is alarming.
 
In drawing this lifeline to himself and his power the Prime Minister is actually bleeding dry any form of experienced governance that even before this move was deeply troublesome. Rama will likely survive. However his governance has shattered. 
[post_title] => The Prime Minister burns down his house [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-prime-minister-burns-down-his-house [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-09 13:46:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-09 12:46:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139980 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139963 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-01-08 15:22:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-08 14:22:14 [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 8 - With a nationwide ban on gambling in force since Jan. 1, thousands of gambling businesses have officially closed down, bringing to an end what had become a booming industry, but a small number of illegal electronic casinos and sports betting shops continue operating secretly throughout the country. Albanian police have identified more than a dozen cases of illegal gambling activities in Tirana and outside the Albanian capital city in the past few days and initiated legal action against ten people, including three gamblers, for organizing and participating in illegal gambling activities, in legal sanctions that could see them fined or face a prison sentence of up to six months. Police say they have seized electronic gaming equipment and poker tables during the first eight days that the gambling ban has been in force and warned of tough nationwide inspections and penalties, inviting citizens to use their emergency phone numbers and mobile apps to report cases of illegal gambling. In one case in Korça, southeast Albania, police said they filed criminal charges against the 48-year old owner of a coffee bar and three other Korça residents who were caught gambling during the police raid. The police operations would sound ridiculous until late 2018 when gambling was a booming business, with electronic casinos and sports betting shops scattered throughout the country and operating even next to schools and religious institutions and gambling a popular sport even among teens who were banned to gamble. Much of the sector was informal with Prime Minister Edi Rama estimating the annual turnover at €500 million, almost four times higher than the official figures. Outgoing finance minister Arben Ahmetaj said few days ago that only a minimum number of former gambling businesses were secretly continuing their operations online and "the battle against gambling would continue even in small coffee bars where iPads are used to gamble online." Prime Minister Rama recently boasted at a TV comedy show that the gambling ban was saving Albanians €1 million a day. The partial nationwide ban of gambling that the Albanian ruling Socialist Party majority approved in late October 2018, bans electronic casinos from residential areas and temporarily freezes the booming sports betting industry, including online betting, until new legislation that could turn it into a state monopoly or set new rules to discipline their operation. Legal changes have affected thousands of betting shops that will apparently not be able to survive as mere coffee shops without the lucrative sport betting business that allowed them to pay up to €3,000 in monthly rents for downtown Tirana facilities, more than double another non-gambling business could afford paying. Hundreds of former gambling shops have already been offered for rent after closing down their businesses in an operation that is expected to cut down rental rates. While the country’s sole real casino offering live table games and located downtown Tirana has not been affected by recent legal changes, hundreds of electronic casinos will be relocated to 5-star hotels or  tourist areas with national importance that are yet to be determined by the government. Legal changes also do not apply to TV bingos, including the National Lottery. Gambling was a completely privately-run industry in Albania where until last year it officially generated more than €130 million in annual income, paid about €50 million in taxes and employed some 7,000 people, but much more if the informal sector was taken into account. Experts had blamed the booming gambling industry for a series of negative economic and social effects, often associated with higher domestic violence and divorce rates. The booming gambling businesses was often linked to gangs laundering crime and drug proceeds. There have also been cases when even senior officials and judges have justified some of their income through winnings in betting shops or casinos in their wealth declarations. [post_title] => Albania launches crackdown on illegal gambling following nationwide ban [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-launches-crackdown-on-illegal-gambling-following-nationwide-ban [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 13:02:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 12:02:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139963 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139941 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-01-07 15:37:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-07 14:37:55 [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 7 – Hundreds of workers at Albania’s sole major oil refiner have temporarily remained jobless in a repeated scenario in the past decade following a failed privatization of the Armo oil refiner, where the Albanian government still holds a minority 15 percent stake. Workers at the oil refinery in Ballsh, a small town in the southern Albanian region of Fier where the refiner is the main employer, have been staging protests in the past few days, demanding a solution to the resumption of work at the refinery that employs around 1,000 people. Representatives of the company that has been managing the refinery for the past year say the situation is a result of inadequate crude oil supplies by Chinese-owned Bankers Petroleum, the country’s largest oil producer.  However, Bankers Petroleum officials blame the refiner’s failure to meet financial obligations for the cut in local oil supplies, but leave open an option to negotiate a new contract for 2019. Redundant workers protested on Monday in front of the prefect’s office representing the Albanian government in the region of Fier and marched to the headquarters of Bankers Petroleum, holding placards and chanting “We want oil” calls. Company representatives say the refinery needs some 50,000 metric tons of crude oil a month in order to efficiently operate, but Bankers Petroleum has not been offering more than 20,000 to 22,000 metric tons a month despite claims of being offered the same price it charges on exports. Reacting to the protest, Bankers Petroleum said the redundant workers were being used to put pressure by a company that has failed to meet contract obligations with its payments, forcing the company to increase oil exports. Bankers Petroleum produces about 90 percent of oil in Albania, but sells the majority of oil abroad in low value-added exports where the Albanian government directly benefits a 10 percent royalty tax. The January 2019 protests signal a similar situation compared to early 2018 when the refinery was paralysed for about four months until a new company took over. In late December 2017, hundreds of oil workers marched for about 140 km from the Ballsh oil refiner to Tirana and were able to get their unpaid November wages only after several days of protests and meetings with the economy and energy ministers. The Ballsh refinery was reactivated in April 2018 following a four-month halt in domestic oil refining by Tirana-based Byllis Energji, a subsidiary of Switzerland-based PGFS Pilotage & Gestion SA under a lease deal with a commercial bank owning it. ARMO, whose 15 percent stake is still held by the Albanian government following its failed 2008 privatization, had accumulated 18.2 billion lek (€147 mln) in debts to tax authorities in 2016, ranking the country’s largest debtor company in a list dominated by energy, construction and gambling companies, according to a report by the Supreme State Audit institution. ARMO's assets now include only the Ballsh refinery built in the 1970s under communism following the sale of a smaller Fier refiner involved in bitumen production to a group of local oil companies in early 2018. Albania’s Serious Crimes Prosecutor’s Office has launched a probe into the company's failed 2008 privatization and the companies that have managed it in the past decade, according to Reporter.al news agency, BIRN Albania’s online Albanian language publication. The refiner was privatized in 2008 when a consortium led-by Albanian businessman Rezart Taçi’s Anika Enterprises bought an 85 percent stake in ARMO oil refiner for €128 million. The deal was financed by the Azerbaijani state bank. Back in 2013, Azerbaijani-based Heaney Assets Corporation took over 80 percent of ARMO shares from Albanian businessman Rezart Taçi for an undisclosed amount, committing to pay off the company’s huge debts, but left the country in one year as accumulated debts increased. The company was also managed for 14 months until late 2017 by Ionian Refining and Trading Company, IRTC, an offshore company owned by the brother of Albanian businessman Besnik Sulaj, whom the opposition Democrats accuse of close ties to the ruling Socialists. ARMO's Ballsh refiner is still owned by Albanian-owned Credins Banks, a former creditor of the ARMO refiner which acquired the company’s key assets in a late 2016 auction following a loan default. [post_title] => Albania oil workers redundant again as failed ARMO privatization saga continues [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-oil-workers-redundant-again-as-failed-armo-privatization-saga-continues [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-07 15:37:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-07 14:37:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139941 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139939 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-01-07 12:24:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-07 11:24:29 [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 7 – Albania’s central bank says it purchased around €170 million from the local currency exchange market in the second half of 2018, but its temporary emergency operations in the county’s free floating regime were unable to stop the free fall of Europe’s single currency against the Albanian lek. The euro has lost 7 percent against the Albanian lek during the past year and currently trades 10 lek (€0.08) below its early January 2018 of around 133 lek, with a series of negative effects for Albania’s highly euroized economy, primarily affecting exporters to the Eurozone, but also sizable Euro-denominated savings and remittances. Effects for the Albanian government have been mixed due to revenue miss from cheaper imports, but also lower costs in repaying external debt. Businesses and households who have borrowed in Europe’s single currency, but have their income in the national currency have also been benefiting with lower loan instalments. The euro slightly recovered to 123.55 lek on Monday (Jan. 7) after hitting a 10-year low of 122.69 lek on Dec. 26 in the face of lack of intervention by Albania's central bank and traditional year-end effects that see the national currency gain ground due to higher euro inflows from the arrival of migrants to spend their holidays at home.   Emergency operations Albania’s central bank initiated emergency intervention in the country’s free floating exchange rate regime in early June 2018 when it purchased an initial €14 million in excess euros from the local market in a bid to stop the negative effects as the euro hit a 10-year low of around 124 lek, losing a considerable 6.5 percent in the course of six months. June 2018 interventions to stabilize the euro-lek exchange rate continued with the purchase of another €51.4 million from commercial banks, with the euro slightly gaining ground and trading at an average of 126 lek against the euro, the currency that accounts for nearly half of savings and credit in the Albanian banking system. Emergency operations were more frequent in the third quarter of the year, a period when euro inflows sharply increase due to the peak tourist season and the massive arrival of migrants to spend their summer vacations at home. The central bank says it purchased another €114.5 million in the third quarter of the year, in operations that took place in July and August to curb the further strengthening of the Albanian lek against the euro which remained stable trading at around 126 lek during the July-Sept. 2018. In addition to purchases related to the euro-lek exchange rate, Albania’s central bank purchased another €59 million in the second and third quarters of 2018 as part of its strategy to increase the foreign exchange reserves, currently at a comfortable rate of covering more than six months of imports, according to the International Monetary Fund. Albania’s central bank ceased its foreign currency emergency operations in September 2018, citing balanced demand and supply rates following the end of the tourist season.   No intervention period With no intervention in the final quarter of 2018, the euro continued losing ground and traded at an average of 123.45 lek in December 2018, compared to an average of 126 lek in the third quarter of the year when the central bank purchased considerable amounts of euros from the local market. Decision-making at the central bank was paralysed for almost two months until late 2018 when six new members of the supervisory council were voted for seven-year terms by the ruling Socialist majority, unblocking the highest decision-making body of the Bank of Albania. In his year-end conference, governor Gent Sejko said the central bank could consider new emergency intervention to buy excess euros from the country’s currency exchange market only in case its inflation target is put at risk and in case of market disruption, in two elements that it says don’t currently pose a risk as they did last June. Inflation rate in 2018 was at around 2 percent, the same to 2017 when it hit a five-year high of 2 percent following a 16-year low of 1.3 percent in 2016. Albania's central bank says it could consider a hike in the key rate by mid-2019, putting an end to nearly a decade of easy monetary policy in the aftermath of the 2008-09 global financial crisis as it tried to stimulate economic growth through lower interest rates despite its effectiveness being hampered by the country’s high levels of euroisation. The key rate has been at a historic low of 1 percent since June 2018, in a bid to stimulate slowly recovering credit and consumption.   Top exporters in difficulty Albania’s exports rose by around 15 percent last year, seeming defying the euro free fall effect, but the double-digit growth was mainly related to rainfall-fed electricity exports and a hike in commodity prices, reinvigorating oil and mineral exports. The garment and footwear sector producing Albania’s top exports has recently warned thousands of jobs in one of the country’s top private sector employers are at risk due to a sharp cut in profits from euro’s free fall against the Albanian national currency and delays in value added tax refunds. Relying on cheap labor costs, the industry imports raw material from Italy, Albania’s main trading partner, where the overwhelming majority of 90 percent of such exports end up. One of the country’s top private sector employers with around 70,000 people, mainly women from suburban areas, the sector is mostly involved in cut-make-trim production but there are also a few emerging ‘Made in Albania’ brands. The European Commission has also warned the euro's free fall against the Albanian lek is also expected to have delayed negative effects on new investment decisions and contracts and negatively affect the competitiveness of Albania’s exports in 2019 when new decisions are made. The Euro has lost about 11 percent compared to mid-2015 level when its five-year reign of about 140 lek came to an end, but the downward trend sharply accelerated last year with a series of question marks over what caused it. While the government and the central bank attribute the strengthening of the national currency to higher euro inflows from foreign investment and tourism and constantly recovering economy, the main opposition Democrats and some local experts have blamed illegal euro inflows from drug and crime proceeds for the euro’s free fall in Albania. London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development also recently noted some ‘unrecorded cross-border activities’ may also be contributing to the appreciation pressures on the Albanian lek which it says reflects the ongoing de-euroisation policy initiative of the central bank in the financial sector, as well as the capital conversion of some banks.   [post_title] => BoA emergency purchases of €170 mln not enough to stop euro’s free fall [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => boa-emergency-purchases-of-e170-mln-not-enough-to-stop-euros-free-fall [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-07 12:24:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-07 11:24:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139939 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139929 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-01-03 21:02:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-03 20:02:39 [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 3 – Albania’s outgoing energy minister has initiated tender procedures for another big concession only few weeks after a scandal with an offshore tax haven that had €30 million in Albania public projects cancelled over cheating authorities with false documents. The new tender involves rehabilitating a costly thermal power plant in Vlora, southern Albania, that has already cost Albanian taxpayers $130 million, but has yet to become operational almost a decade after its completion due to problems with its cooling system and high costs of operating on fuel. The Albanian government is now seeking private investors for a 20-year concession to convert the Vlora TPP into a natural gas-fired plant and link it to the Albanian section of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline in order to make it operational on lower costs and diversify Albania’s domestic electricity generation, currently wholly hydro-dependant and putting public finances in trouble in case of prolonged droughts due to costly imports. Private investors have been asked to invest around €59 million for a 20-year ‘rehabilitate-own-operate-transfer’ contract that also involves the construction of a 40-km pipeline to link the thermal power plant to Fier, southwest Albania, where the Albania pipeline onshore section ends, before it links with southern Italy through an offshore 105- km section.  In return for its investment and operation, the concessionaire will pay Albania's state-run power utility, KESH, a concession fee equal to 2 percent of the plant’s annual electricity generation for the whole concession period. Bids are expected until Feb. 28, 2019, following a mandatory Jan. 15 on-site visit making participants eligible to receive access to an electronic data room, says the energy ministry. The new concession comes two and a half years after the Albanian government first unveiled plans for a public-private partnership to make the Vlora thermal power plant operational ahead of the first gas flows from the Trans Adriatic Pipeline by 2020. "We target finding a private operator through a public-private partnership that will undertake to make operational, repair and convert the plant to natural gas,” outgoing Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri said in mid-2016. Scheduled to bring Caspian gas to Europe through Albania, Greece and Italy, TAP is the only hope for the costly Vlora thermal power plant, a 97 MW low-sulphur distillate oil fuelled power plant, available for use since 2010, but which has not been put to use because of high fuel costs and problems with its cooling system. The majority World Bank-funded thermal power plant which the Albanian government is still paying back in annual instalments cost an estimated $130 million compared to initial projected costs of $112 million. The power plant has not been taken over by Albanian power utility, KESH, yet as the state-run company faces an arbitration trial with an Italian company that built it due to financial disputes and problems in the plant’s cooling system. The thermal power plant in the coastal city of Vlora could produce electricity at a lower cost of up to 40 percent if operated on liquefied natural gas instead of D2 diesel, according to a study carried out by the Albanian energy regulator. Unlike the controversial taxpayer funded public-private partnerships under the government’s €1 billion PPP program to rehabilitate road, health, waste management infrastructure, the Vlora thermal power plant will be a private investment, with apparently no financial government commitment, but once again unveiling the huge costs of an ill-designed project from the beginning , with huge costs for Albanian taxpayers. Possible government commitments remain to be seen only when contract negotiations with the winning bidder are concluded.   Gjiknuri’s rise and fall One of the key figures of the ruling Socialists since they assumed power in 2013,  Damian Gjiknuri led the country’s energy, industry and infrastructure ministry for more than five years until late December 2018 when he was sacked along with seven other ministers in the midst of a student protest over lower tuition fees and better higher education standards. His career went quite smooth until few weeks ago when a ghost company claimed two public tenders for road and electricity projects worth €30 million by falsifying links to a US-based company, leading to the cancellation of the contracts. Similarly to other sacked ministers, Prime Minister Edi Rama’s official excuse was that the ministers had fulfilled their duties by spending more than five years in office and now had to play a key role for the upcoming June 30 local elections where the ruling Socialists target keeping the big municipalities under their rule. Gjiknuri will be replaced by Belinda Balluku, a former senior aide of Prime Minister Edi Rama when he was Tirana Mayor for around a decade until 2011. Balluku recently led Albcontrol, the state-run air navigation service provider. On duty until the new minister takes over following the presidential decree, Gjiknuri adds to the list of ministers who have awarded concessions in their last days of duty or during the transition period to a new government.   DH Albania scandal The ease at which a newly established company claimed in late 2018 two major public contracts, worth a total of €30 million, by falsifying links to a US-based parent company unveiled the fragility of Albania’s public procurement system and non-transparent use of taxpayer money, leading to allegations of large-scale corruption which the ruling Socialists have downplayed with lack of security checks on the winning company. DH Albania, a subsidiary of US-based Dunwell Haberman, easily won public tenders to build a section of Tirana’s outer ring road for €18 million and an electricity transmission line north of Albania worth around €12 million in the past few months, in public tenders with virtually no competition at all. The Albanian unit falsely claimed it was part of a major US company with 20 years of experience allegedly registered in the state of Delaware in 1998, but later proved to have registered only in mid-2018. In both tenders, the Albanian unit of the US-registered company legally represented by a 26-year old Albanian with no major business background, claimed both tenders by beating sole rivals that were disqualified for lacking documentation or financial security, after bidding almost exactly the same to the amount that the government expected the contracts to be carried out. Local media have unveiled Albanian businessman Bashkim Ulaj, locally dubbed an oligarch, as allegedly behind the scandal. Reacting to the Dunwell Haberman scandal, Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri said he had proposed legal changes making it compulsory to screen documentation submitted by winning bidders before a contract is signed in order to avoid similar future situations. Public procurement has traditionally been one of the key concerns for local and foreign investors complaining of corruption and tailor-made criteria favoring specific companies with alleged links to ruling majorities. PPP winners in the past few years have mostly emerged out of unsolicited proposals favoring Albanian-owned companies that proposed the projects through bonuses that made them eventual winners in tenders with little competition.   Opposition worried Opposition Democratic Party MP Agron Shehaj who also slammed the DH Albania scandal before the public tenders were cancelled after further media investigations, says the new concession that Prime Minister Edi Rama and Energy Minister Gjiknuri are trying to award lacks transparency. According to him, tailor-made criteria such as a mandatory on-site visit in mid-January to participate in the tender exclude foreign companies from the race. "With zero transparency, Rama and Gjiknuri have decided to switch to private ownership for 20 years the Vlora TPP which has cost Albanian taxpayers €120 million to build and maintain," says Shehaj, a Vlora constituency MP. "What is already known is that the government wants all the interested bidders to take part in a mandatory on-site visit to the Vlora TPP on January 15 and only Rama and Gjiknuri know which foreign company can get informed, evaluate and decide within two weeks and in holidays’ time to sent their representatives in Albania's Vlora," the opposition MP writes on social media. Shehaj says the new concession is an “old story of the country's wealth, public property and public money being awarded to government clients allegedly under concessions, increasing investment costs by several times and on Jan. 15 it will become clear who of the Rama clients will get the next concession.”   Gov’t blames Democrats for ‘energy corpse’ Reacting to the opposition Democratic Party's allegations, the energy ministry described its accusations as malicious speculations, arguing the opposition should apologize to taxpayers for what it called an 'energy corpse' built when the Democrats were in power during 2005-2013. According to the ministry, the concession procedures come after a feasibility study prepared by German consultant Ronald Berger and recommendations by the World Bank which funded the plant’s construction. The energy ministry says the concession will have no costs for the state budget as it will be a private investment with no commitments to purchase electricity at regulated prices as it has decided in several other works, including a recent major solar power plant. "Pompously built under the [former Prime Minister] Berisha government, this work has never been operational while the Albanian government spends millions of euros each year to conserve it and prevent its degradation... because of a breakdown it suffered just before its completion. Even if it was operational, the thermal power plant was built to operate on diesel, which makes the electricity cost too high and beyond economic logic," the energy ministry said in a statement. "Studies have shown that awarding a concession, including its repair, its conversion into a natural gas- fired thermal power plant and its connection to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline are the sole alternative,” the ministry adds.   [post_title] => Outgoing Albanian minister initiates new €59 mln concession after tax haven scandal [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => outgoing-albanian-minister-initiates-new-e59-mln-concession-after-tax-haven-scandal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-07 10:08:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-07 09:08:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139929 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139933 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-12-30 15:23:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-30 14:23:52 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 20 - On Wednesday evening, local media reported Albania declared the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and one more diplomat as persona non-gratae, under suspicion they are involved in activities that jeopardize the country’s security. The news that Albania, maybe the only country to do so, expelled the Iranian diplomats was confirmed by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Further on, it was reported the decision was made in consultation with allied countries, due to their activity in Albania, which stood in violation with their diplomatic status. Following Albania’s decision, US President Donald Trump addressed Prime Minister Edi Rama with a letter which was published by the country’s MEFA. In the letter, Trump thanked Rama and expressed anticipation in growing the partnership between the two traditionally allied countries. “The leadership you have shown by expelling Iran’s Ambassador to your country exemplifies our joint efforts to show the Iranian government that its terrorist activities in Europe and around the world will have severe consequences,” Trump wrote. US National Security Advisor John Bolton also reacted on Twitter on the government’s decision. “Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania just expelled the Iranian ambassador, signaling to Iran’s leaders that their support for terrorism will not be tolerated. We stand with PM Rama and the Albanian people as they stand up to Iran’s reckless behavior in Europe and across the globe,” Bolton wrote on Twitter. The decision to announce the two Iranian diplomats as persona non-grata is thought to be related with alarming violations of their diplomatic status and suspicious activity related to violent extremism. Another reaction also came from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who emphasized in his tweet the sanctions placed on Iran. “I comment PM Edi Rama’s expulsion of two Iranian agents who plotted terrorist attacks in Albania. European nations have thwarted three Iranian plots this year alone. The world must stand together to sanction Iran’s regime until it changes its destructive behavior,” Pompeo wrote. It is worth noting that Albania under Rama’s governance became host of almost all 3,000 members of an Iranian opposition group known as Mujahedin e Khalq (MEK) as part of United States efforts to find them new homes outside of Iran. Relations between Albania and Iran in the past few years have been strained by Albania’s willingness to accept providing shelter to MEK, which had been on the list of terrorist organizations for several years in the United States as well. Meanwhile, independent experts have raised serious question marks on MEK members presence in Albania, even more than the concerns already raised by their presence here as an ex-terrorist group that is still considered terrorist in many parts of the world. According to earlier statements by MEK members, their stay in Albania will stretch until the end of Iran’s dictatorship, however experts have not excluded the possibility that MEK members may be building a base against Iran, during their stay in Albania.     Reaction from Teheran   A swift reaction came from Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi, who described Tirana’s move as “unacceptable.” 'Such a measure and scenario run under pressure of the US government and the Zionist intelligence service and in cooperation with certain anti-Iranian terrorist groups under the vain and wrong claims of compilation, aiming to sever and influence Iran-Europe ties,' said Qasemi. Qasemi further called Albania, “which has always had good ties with Iran,” “a victim” of anti-Iranian agents’ “dirty plans.” “We consider such an unwise move, imposed on the country, being aimed at harming and disrupting Iran's diplomatic relations, especially with Europe, while aiming to annoy Iran and cause Iranophobia – This line has always been followed by Americans and Zionists.'”   [post_title] => Albania expels Iranian Ambassador under terrorism concerns [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-expels-iranian-ambassador-under-terrorism-concerns-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-04 15:27:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-04 14:27:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139933 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140001 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-01-10 20:28:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-10 19:28:44 [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - New evidence made public on Wednesday show the company DH Albania - which won the government tender to build one lot of the Great Ring road currently under construction by using falsified documents of US offshore company Dunwel Haberman - was favored by the Albanian administration, which issued a construction license prior to the company’s registration at the National Business Centre. News 24 TV-show “The Unexposed,” uncovering how US offshore Dunwel Haberman had falsified its founding act and the signature of the Delaware Secretary of State to prove it had not legal issues in the US, also uncovered how DH Albania, its official branch, had won two government tenders mounting up to 30 million euros in the past year. So far, in all public appearances, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has insisted this was a case of company fraud and, cancelling the tenders, parallely began a constitutional investigation. “You can find companies that enter tender competitions using falsified documents everywhere in the world. A government, a minister, a ministry, should not be judged on whether a company enters the race with falsified documents. They are judged based on how they act when the facts are unveiled. Concerning this case, where is the corruption that has happened?” Rama said at the end of December, speaking about DH Albania. However, information gathered by the Voice of America testify that Albanian institutions were put to the company’s full service, even in violation of laws and regulations. According to an official response the infrastructure ministry issued to VOA’s information request, it results that "DH-ALBANIA Company, branch of the foreign company, with its request dated 13.07.2018, accompanied by the relevant documentation, has applied to have its foreign license recognized in the field of construction.” The infrastructure ministry’s website also states, in the listed documentation necessary to recognize foreign licenses, that is is required for companies to submit proof of registration at the NBC, which among others proves the tie of the still-unlicensed company with the mother company and its active status, among others. However, on July 13, when the application was made, DH Albania was still an non-existent company. Referring to the NBC, the company was registered there on July 18, run by unknown, 26-year-old Avdjol Dobi. This indicates the Licenses Commission Secretariat began procedures to legalize an non-existent entity which was unable to identify as DH Albania, as it was lacking NBC proof at the time. The licenses commission, headed by Gerta Lubonja, appointed with a Council of Ministers decision, also consists of three ministry of infrastructure directors. VOA has shown that based on the predetermined deadlines of the commission’s activity, now removed from the website, “the documentation, accompanied by summarized material compiled by the Technical Secretariat, shall be made available to the members of the Commission three working days prior to the meeting’s set date.” The license for DH Albania was issued at the July 30 meeting, which was on a Monday. Consequently, the documentation for it should have been submitted to the commission at least on July 25. But according to the official response of the infrastructure ministry, DH Albania has completed all the documents only on July 27. The violations in favor of DH Albania suggest it was clear to the commission it was not simply helping Dobi, but also the people hiding behind the entire fraud - allegedly, the Albanian oligarch Bashkim Ulaj. Certain facts made public by VoA, show that Dobi and Ulaj have family ties, in addition to the fact that Ulaj’s employees from his owned Gener 2 company helped fill up DH Albania’s documentation and made payments on its behalf. The country’s prosecution, which is investigating as crimes both the fraud and the misuse of institutional duty, has not yet been able to call Dobi to testify although he is not known to have officially left Albania. The DH Albania case has been ignored by the government on the surface, while “The Unexposed” show host and journalist Ylli Rakipi reported his life was threatened two weeks after going public with the story.   [post_title] => Evidence shows gov’t institutions helped DH Albania win Great Ring project tender [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => evidence-shows-govt-institutions-helped-dh-albania-win-great-ring-project-tender [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-11 12:37:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-11 11:37:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140001 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 52 [name] => Premium [slug] => premium [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 52 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Please subscribe to have access to articles in our premium section. [parent] => 0 [count] => 640 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 52 [category_count] => 640 [category_description] => Please subscribe to have access to articles in our premium section. [cat_name] => Premium [category_nicename] => premium [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 52 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )