In the city of Fieri, six officials and a waste treatment plant administrator were arrested on corruption charges today. Anti-corruption prosecutors said they are also looking to detain Alqi Bllako, a former state official and current member of parliament for Albania’s ruling Socialist Party.
Bllako, who was the Chief Executive Officer of the National Water Supply and Sewage Agency between February 2019 and March 2021, allegedly received a bribe of 15 million leks (more than 120,000 euros). According to charges, this bribe was received in the form of a salary paid to his father by a firm that was awarded the contract to build incinerators at the now-controversial waste treatment plant in Elbasan.
Corruption prosecutors have since seized a family apartment worth some 144,000 euros.
Bllako is presently covered by parliamentary immunity, meaning he cannot be detained until parliament authorizes his arrest.
“For citizen Alqi Bllako, due to the fact that he is an elected MP in the parliament of the Republic of Albania, the Special Prosecutor…will request authorisation for the arrest,” the Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) said.
Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government awarded three contracts for building waste treatment plant to a group of privately owned companies. The combined deals were worth hundreds of millions of euros.
Controversy surrounding the projects has since led to an investigation by the Inquiry Commission, and the European Union criticized the waste treatment plants’ construction in the last three progress reports.
Rama has dismissed claims that the cost of the waste treatment plants to the taxpayer exceeded hundreds of millions of euros.
“€30.6 million were paid by the state budget for the Elbasan incinerator and €24.7 million for the one in Fier. That totals €55.3 million and this is where this question gets answered,” Rama told the Inquiry Commission, “Where did you find the €100 million figure? Where are documents proving that? We need to have the same evidence.”
The former Environment Minister Lefter Koka was arrested in December 2021 for abuse of office in relation to the Elbasan waste disposal plant. He has been accused of creating a network of fake companies that were ultimately awarded contracts worth millions of euros in relation to the projects.
Today’s arrests come on the back of an investigation into the second waste incinerator plant in Fieri. An investigation into the largest plant, in Albania’s capital Tirana, is ongoing.
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