Albanian prosecutors seized the company that is building a waste disposal facility in the capital Tirana, alleging that it is a front for two fugitive businessmen and that its corrupt operations cost taxpayers at least 100 million euros.
Albania’s Special Prosecution announced on Tuesday that it has seized Dutch-registered Integrated Energy BV SPV, claiming that its nominal French and Italian owners are fronts for two controversial Albanian businessmen who are currently fugitives from justice.
According to the prosecutors, the investigation “found out that Klodian Zoto and Mirel Mertiri are ‘de facto’ owners” of the company, which won the contract to build a landfill and incinerator and renovate the existing waste dump in Tirana.
The prosecutors said that the two fugitives are also the de facto owners of the mother company registered in the Netherlands.
“The investigation has found out that Klodian Zoto and Mirel Mertiri used individuals and other companies to hide the ultimate owners of the company,” the prosecution said in a statement.
The Albanian government led by Prime Minister Edi Rama has awarded three concessionary contracts to build waste incinerators in Elbasan, Fieri and Tirana. Tirana, the largest of the contracts, was awarded in 2017.
Data from the Business Registry of Albania shows that the company, with nominal shareholding capital of about 1,000 euros, increased its revenues to about one million euros in the first few months after it stared operating.
Its revenues grew to almost 25 million euros in 2021. Data from its financial statements and government treasury expenditures shows that up until the day of the seizure orders, taxpayers had paid the company at least 100 million euros.
Mertiri and Zoto are also accused of bribing Albania’s former environment minister Lefter Koka, who is charged with appropriating some 5.1 million euros through a network of fake companies that issued invoices to firms that won contracts.
Albania’s former deputy prime minister Arben Ahmetaj is also charged with receiving some 491 million euros in various ways from Mertiri and Zoto. He is currently on the run.
Several other officials are also suspected of having received financial benefits from Mertiri and Zoto or carried out illegal acts for their benefit.
Prosecution documents and the findings of a parliamentary investigative commission show that Mertiri and Zoto were able to continue operating by paying officials and several national and local media outlets, in what is being seen as one of the largest fraud schemes in the country’s recent history.
Source : Balkan Insight