Albania’s former PM Berisha faces corruption charges
Albania’s former President and PM, Sali Berisha and his son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, face corruption charges over a land deal involving the grounds of a sports club. Albania’s Special Prosecutor’s Office has charged Berisha and Malltezi with passive corruption and money laundering linked to the misuse of political power.
On October 21, 2023, Malltezi was arrested at Rinas Airport, while Berisha received a security measure known as an “order to appear.” Due to his status as a member of parliament, he holds immunity and cannot be arrested unless that immunity is revoked.
In 2008, during Sali Berisha’s tenure as the head of Albania’s government, the Council of Ministers proposed an amendment to the Law on Sports. The amendment permitted the privatisation of sports facilities by the families of former owners who had been expropriated by the Communist regime decades earlier. The Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime office alleges that Berisha changed laws to facilitate the construction of apartment blocks and, through his son-in-law, received 5.4 million EUR from the developer as a form of “payment” for the legislative changes that facilitated the development.
Specifically, Berisha and Maltezzi participated in the privatisation of FC Partizani, a former state-owned football club, and other sports facilities in Tirana. These properties were subsequently replaced with multi-storey apartment blocks constructed by the private company Homeplan. Homeplan was founded in 2008 by Fatmir Bektashi, who also owned some of the land by descent. Bektashi was initially listed as the sole owner of the company. However, in 2018, Homeplan filed a contract with Albania’s Business Registry, dating back to 2014, revealing that Bektashi had sold 35% of the shares to Malltezi for a nominal value of approximately 300 EUR.
Berisha rejected the charges, asserting that they were politically motivated. He argued that the prosecutors were influenced by the Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, attributing their actions to Rama’s alleged plans to eliminate the centre-right opposition and establish uncontested rule. “Edi Rama thinks that by engaging his prosecution against me and by arresting members of my family … at a moment when the opposition seems more determined than ever in the battle … to re-establish political plurality … and save Albania from this narco-regime … that he can forestall the opposition’s action,” stated Berisha. The charges surfaced three years following Interior Minister Taulant Balla, who was then leading the parliamentary group of the ruling Socialist Party, forwarded a dossier of allegations against Malltezi and Berisha to the prosecutor’s office.
In May 2021, the US government prohibited Berisha and his immediate family from entering the country, citing alleged corruption involvement and interference in independent investigations and anti-corruption efforts. The US stated that Berisha’s corrupt actions undermined democracy in Albania. Corruption has significantly impacted post-communist Albania’s democratic, economic, and social progress, with Berisha becoming the fourth high-ranking Albanian official barred from entering the United States due to alleged corruption.