Albania’s Special Prosecution said it has seized the Dutch-registered waste disposal facility, Integrated Energy BV SPV. It said the French and Italian owners are acting as fronts for two fugitive Albanian businessmen.
Prosecutors said an investigation “found out that Klodian Zoto and Mirel Mertiri are ‘de facto’ owners” of the company running the waste disposal facility in Tirana, which had won the government contract to build a landfill and incinerator, and overhaul the existing waste dump.
Led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, the Albanian government has so far awarded three contracts to build waste incinerators in Elbasan, Fieri and Tirana.
The largest contract is for the Tirana waste disposal facility, and was awarded in 2017.
According to data from the Business Registry of Albania, the company running the facility has a nominal shareholding capital of 1,000 euros, and increased its revenue to some one million euros within the first few months of operation.
In 2021, the company’s revenue grew close to 25 million euros. Data from government treasury expenditures and financial statements show that taxpayers had paid the company at least 100 million euros up to the day of the seizure orders.
The fugitive businessmen, Mertiri and Zoto, are also being accused of bribing the former environment minister, Lefter Koka. Koka is being charged with appropriating 5.1 million euros using a network of fake companies that issued invoices to firms that had won contracts.
Albania’s former deputy prime minister Arben Ahmetaj has also been charged with receiving some 491 million euros from Mertiri and Zoto via a number of channels. Ahmetaj is currently a fugitive.
Investigations were launched against Ahmetaj in 2022, and the Special Prosecutor’s Office has discovered undeclared properties and investments belonging to the former deputy prime minister.
A number of other Albanian government officials are also suspected of having received financial benefits from the businessmen, and of having performed illegal tasks on their behalf.
According to prosecution documents and the findings of a parliamentary investigative commission, the two men continued to pay officials and several national, as well as local media outlets.
Zoto is also being investigated for another case involving a waste incinerator in the city of Fier. There, he is accused of issuing tax invoices worth 40 million euros for services that were never provided. The company, Integrated Technology Waste Treatment Fier, has also been impounded.
The scheme has been described as one of the largest incidents of fraud in Albania’s recent history.
Image via Wikimedia