Ten years in the making, the project was of huge strategic importance to Albania and majority-Albanian Kosovo. The 241 kilometer power line lay the foundations for Kosovo’s energy independence from Serbia following the two countries’ separation in 2008, and the formation of a new regional energy block.
Even so, allegations of corruption saw the tendering process for the Albania section of the line delayed from 2011 to 2014. In April 2014, Albania’s Transmission System Operator, OST, signed a 29 million euro contract with EnergoInvest to build the Albanian stretch of the project. The project was finished in mid-2016.
Leaked documents have now revealed, however, that EnergoInvest paid a total of more than 3.6 million euros to a small consultancy firm registered in the United Arab Emirates. The payments began in 2013, the same year the firm, AL Energy Transmission, was registered.
AL Energy Transmission is headed by Albanian businessman Vasil Kallupi.
While the payments are not explicitly illegal on the surface, financial experts warn that money being redirected through offshore jurisdictions should raise serious alarm bells in terms of the risk of corruption.
“In many cases, the winning companies are a facade to hide the fact that the deal to win the bid has been negotiated by the subcontractor,” explained Gjergji Vurmo from Tirana based think-tank the Institute of Democracy and Mediation.
The collapse of communism in the early 1990s saw Albania seek out a fraught transition to a market economy, resulting in increased demand for electricity. Soon, Albania became a net importer of electricity, but decades of underinvestment in the domestic grid and a lack of high voltage lines connecting to the wider European market meant that power outages became the norm for more than a decade.
The establishment of a joint electricity block between Albania and Kosovo therefore marked a significant turning point for both countries. In April 2020, the European Network of Transmission System Operators, ENTSO-E, gave permission for Kosovo’s transmission system operator to leave Serbia’s control block and join a newly-formed one with Albania.
The latest leaked documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists include millions of documents detailing the financial activities of 35 current and former national leaders, as well as 400 officials from close to 100 countries.
Photo by NickyPe via Pixabay.