Lefter Koka, a former Albanian minister and well-known powerbroker, was arrested this week on charges of corruption. His arrest was carried out by the Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) for abuse of office, and corrupt practices regarding procedures, contracts, and the construction of the Elbasan urban waste incinerator.
Koka once served as mayor of Durres, the second largest city in Albania, before becoming an MP for the Socialist Party, an MP for the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI), and again serving as an MP for the Socialist Party. It was in his latter role that he won a major battleground seat in April’s parliamentary elections earlier this year.
As Environment Minister for the SMI, Koka awarded three controversial concessionary contracts for the construction of waste incinerators in Elbasan, Fiera and Tirana. He was later accused by the SMI of creating a network of fake companies that were awarded contracts worth millions of euros from the company established to build the Elbasani waste incinerator.
These companies were allegedly registered under the ownership of a number of individuals linked to Koka, and were shut down soon after receiving money transfers connected to the Elbasani waste incinerator.
The SPAK opened an investigation into the waste incinerator controversy on the back of these accusations, and this week announced that they had found that “the procedures for the contract with Albtek Energy were incomplete, and that, contrary to the law on concessions, the negotiation method was followed without prior notice.”
“From these actions, the interests of the state have been damaged and the private company has received unfair benefits,” SPAK continued.
SPAK has issued two other arrest warrants for wanted individuals Klodian Zoto and Stela Gugalla. Their shares in the companies they manage have been seized. Zoto is the owner Integrated Technology Services, a company that owns 70 percent of the shares in the Fier waste incinerator. Gugalla has been linked to two other incinerators in Fier and Tirana.
The Socialist Party has consistently denied allegations of abuse of power surrounding waste incinerator projects. Prime Minister Edi Rama and his ministers have frequently visited the sites, emphasising the positive impact of these projects on the treatment of urban waste in Albania.
In the country’s general elections on 25 April 2021, Koka won a seat in Durrës as a candidate of the Socialist Party. In September, he abruptly resigned without giving a public explanation.
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