The Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened to quit the international arbitration body, the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), over its decision to award an Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti some 110 million euros in compensation.
Rama described the decision made by the ICSID as “scandalous.”
“A criminal who has been sentenced to 17 years in jail for fraud against the Albanian state managed to succeed with a court with which we will start to cause problems, starting from the next week,” Rama said.
“We are analyzing the possibility of getting out of its jurisdiction because what happened is scandalous,” he added.
In 2015, Becchetti accused the Albanian government, led by Rama, of unlawfully seizing his assets. He said Rama’s government seized his assets, including a TV station, due to his media outlet being critical of authorities.
Bechetti was sentenced to 17 years in prison, in absentia, by a Tirana court in February 2022 for money laundering in connection with a failed hydroelectric project. British authorities refused to extradite him to Albania.
Becchetti has filed a number of claims to the CSID against Albania. The majority of his claims have been dismissed.
The international arbitration body ICSID deals with claims behind closed doors, and the circumstances of this recent decision have not been made public.
Even so, Albanian opposition politicians say Rama unlawfully prosecuted Becchetti so as to secure control over the Albanian media landscape.
In the wake of Rama’s announcement that he may withdraw from ICSID’s jurisdiction, opposition politician Sali Berisha criticized the decision as on par with turning away from international financial organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“I condemn his statement in the strongest terms,” said Berisha.
A number of foreign companies have filed claims to ICSID against Albania. Some of these claims have been dismissed as baseless, while others have successfully secured major compensation awards. The Ministry of Finance has set aside more than 155 million euros to make these payouts, including the one awarded to Becchetti.
The ICSID falls under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, and is borne out of a 1996 UN convention on the settlement of investment disputes between states and nationals of other States. The conventions has been ratified by Albania, one of 140 countries to do so.
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