Zafar Ansar: My introduction to Argita Berisha 16 Jan 13
Albania to Probe Illicit Transfers to Tax Havens
Prime Minister Sali Berisha on Tuesday called for a probe into a report’s claims that more than $1.3 billion (983 million) were spirited out of Albania over five years.
Global Financial Integrity says corrupt elite took $1.3 billion (983 million) out of Albania
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19 Dec 12
$1.3bn Spirited Out of Albania, Report Says
14 Jul 14
How Berisha’s Inner Circle Profited from Multi-Million Euro Land Deals
Former Albanian premier Sali Berisha’s decision to transform worthless marshland into prime real estate helped his family and controversial friend Damir Fazlic earned millions of euros, classified documents obtained by BIRN reveal.
|Landscape of Porto Romano. | Photo by Dave Wyatt
Porto Romano, an impoverished hinterland of Albania’s second city, Durres, is home to the rusting hulk of a communist-era chemical factory, a sprawling rubbish dump and a smattering of industrial units.
Still recovering from decades of unfettered pollution, the marshland encircling the harbour is an unlikely setting for a real estate boom fuelled by the country’s political and business elite.
Yet back in November 2006, that’s exactly what happened when Berisha’s daughter, lawyer Argita Malltezi, and her colleague Flutura Kola, began to snap up land at 10 euro per square metre – more than double the market rate.
Some 14 hectares edging a small ‘energy park’ connected to the port were secured for their client, controversial Bosnian businessman and Berisha election adviser Damir Fazlic, who paid his lawyers, directly or indirectly, more than four-times the market price – 18 euro per square metre.
Soon after the transactions were completed, Berisha made a prime-ministerial decision to move the energy park boundary to include Fazlic’s new holdings, instantly transforming worthless marshland into prime real estate, and pushing up its value at least eight-fold.
Berisha’s daughter, her partner in the law firm and their hired middleman may have made almost 1.2m euro from selling land to Fazlic at four-times the market rate. Previously unpublished files obtained by BIRN document 430,000 euro of profit. A further 740,000 euro was earned in cash and, as such, cannot be traced.
|Berisha’s decision to extend energy park brought huge profit to his daughter, Argita Malltezi, and his friend, Damir Fazlic. | Photos by European People’s Party and Club de Madrid
Bosnian businessman Fazlic saw the value of his land, held in two Albanian firms, soar by 1.7m euro to 4.2m euro after Berisha’s decision. If his plans to develop the site into a 70m euro petrol terminal go ahead, he will earn tens of millions.
In 2008, the transactions attracted the attention of Albanian anti-money laundering investigators, alarmed at Fazlic’s use of “shell companies” in Albania, the number of cash-only sales at inflated prices and involvement of offshore firms based in Cypriot and Caribbean tax havens.
The case against Fazlic was dropped in 2009 after officials were unable to secure key documents from Bosnia and Cyprus or trace the origin of the funds. Fazlic was never formally charged with any offences and he strongly denied any wrongdoing.
But a cache of official documents obtained by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, now raises fresh questions about the central role Malltezi and her firm Malltezi & Kola played in buying and selling land, the value of which increased dramatically as a result of her father’s official decision to include it in the energy park.
And BIRN’s tracking of official company documents from St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean to Moscow, has also revealed that Serb energy mogul Vojin Lazarevic was at the heart of the deal, funnelling 2.5m euro into Fazlic’s private bank account in Albania via a network of offshore companies. The controversial businessmen hope to develop the site into major energy facilities.
Neither BIRN nor the prosecution uncovered any evidence to suggest Lazarevic funded Fazlic improperly, but the energy mogul has never spoken about his use of offshore havens or why the transactions took place largely outside the banking sector. He declined our request to be interviewed on the matter and did not respond to specific questions.
Fazlic, a close friend and adviser to Sali Berisha with powerful friends in Washington, London and across the Balkans, has always denied any wrongdoing.
Sali Berisha, Argita and Jamarber Malltezi and Flutura and Florenc Kola refused to be interviewed by BIRN or respond to our detailed questions.
Real estate boom
|Locals were eager to sell the land at the price of €9.8. | Photo by Dave Wyatt
From a quayside shack at Porto Romano, Abdyl Mukaj ekes out a living selling fresh fish to tourists in the summer months.
His has been a life on the breadline, so when a local man, Kujtim Shahini, asked him to sell a hectare of marshland in 2007 at double the market rate, he seized the chance.
The land had been given to Mukaj by the state when he, along with many of his neighbours, had received plots in Porto Romano as compensation after it had forced them from their ancestral lands in northern Albania to make way for a new hydropower plant.
Offered large sums of cash for land with little financial or emotional value, the villagers didn’t ask who was buying or why.
Malltezi, her law firm partner Flutura Kola and their husbands – Jamarber Malltezi and Florenc Kola – sought land close to the existing energy park in Porto Romano for their client Fazlic and his firms, Crown Acquisitions and Alpha Shpk.
The husbands searched for suitable plots and employed a local middleman – Shahini – to conduct cash-only purchases in person from November 2006 through to September 2007.
Shahini and Florenc Kola first helped to secure nine hectares of land from villagers for Crown Acquisitions, almost all of which was bought, according to the contract, for 18 euro per square metre. The document is among more than a 1,000 pages of official material secured by BIRN.
|Fazlic’s properties in Porto Romano are marked in red.
But villagers have told BIRN that they were paid just 1,200 lek [9.8 euro]. It is not clear who benefited from the 700,000 euro difference between the contract and real price. Shahini has admitted to taking a cut while Fazlic, in an exclusive interview with BIRN, said his negotiators were entitled to their share.
Two out of the nine plots sold to Crown Acquisitions, had, in fact, already been purchased by Shahini and Kola to be sold to Fazlic at a profit.
“I received just 1200 lek per m2 – That was the deal,” villager Mukaj said. “Kujtim [Shahini] brought the money to my house in a black off-road car.
“1200 lek per square metre is the price that all the villagers sold the land for – you can ask all of them.”
In the second phase, the Malltezis and Kolas acquired five hectares of land from villagers at the same price – just under 10 euro per square metre – which they immediately resold to Fazlic’s Alpha Shpk at 18 euro, netting profits of 430,000 euro. A further 150,000 euro was paid to Florenc Kola related to land purchases, although it is not clear from documents what deal this is connected to.
Bizarrely, during the transactions, Flutura Kola was sometimes simultaneously acting as the seller of the property, as she owned the land with her husband, and buyer, as Damir Fazlic’s legal representative. Having withdrawn funds from Fazlic’s personal account she was, in effect, paying herself and her business partner, Argita Malltezi, for the land.
Crown Acquisitions was eventually sold in June 2007 for 1.7m euro to Altaria Research Limited, a company registered in Cyprus and controlled by Lazarevic.
Alpha Shpk was sold to Cyprus-based Irongold Ltd, also controlled by Lazarevic, for 1.25m euro. Fazlic was left with a 300,000 euro profit.
Fazlic initially claimed Altaria Research Limited was his “holding company in Cyprus” in his only television interview since the affair erupted in October 2008. As a result, he said, he had made no profit as he was selling Crown Acquisitions – and its land holding – to himself. When questioned the following year by prosecutors, he refused to name the owner as, he said, it could harm his business.
But when pressed by BIRN in his first interview in seven years in June, he said he had a joint 50-50 stake in Crown Acquisitions and Alpha Shpk with Lazarevic via Altaria Research Limited.
This is not reflected in the official paperwork in Cyprus and Fazlic was unable to explain whether he had made any profit from selling part of his stake to Lazarevic.
Berisha shielded Fazlic
|Berisha’s daughter and son-in-law sell land to Damir Fazlic.
When the money laundering investigation was announced in October 2008, Berisha went to extraordinary lengths to shield Fazlic from possible prosecution, including spiriting him out of the country by private jet.
According to a leaked US Embassy memo, justice ministry inspectors were sent to seize case material for the prosecution, and prosecutors were subjected to public smear campaigns by Berisha and even threatened with legal action by the interior ministry.
In July 2009, just one month after Albanian prosecutors dropped the money laundering investigation, Berisha approved plans that incorporated Fazlic’s plots of land into the nearby energy park in Porto Romano.
While the land wasn’t particularly valuable when purchased back in 2007, Fazlic successfully applied to construct a huge petrol terminal, increasing its value eight-fold from the original market value.
Called to account for his role in the scandal, Berisha held a press conference in support of Fazlic, claiming the investigation was orchestrated by “the mafia”, and insisting neither Fazlic nor his family had benefited from his political office.
He argued, accurately, he had not declared Porto Romano an energy park, as a small zone had been designated as such in 2001. He failed, however, to add he had extended it to include his friend’s land.
Argita Malltezi was never interviewed and her role in the buying and selling land had remained secret until today. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to the prosecution team told BIRN they were simply too scared at the time to summon the premier’s daughter for questioning.
|Argita Malltezi, Berisha’s daughter. | Print screen TV Klan YouTube
Argita, her husband Jamarber and brother Shkelzen, were linked to a number of corruption scandals during Berisha’s tenure, but were never formally included in any probe. They have always denied any wrongdoing.
In interviews with prosecutors seen by BIRN, lawyer Flutura Kola and Jamarber Malltezi reveal they were well aware of Porto Romano’s potential at the time they began buying up the land.
Jarmarber Malltezi said: “I had information regarding the development of that area so I thought it was a good business [opportunity].”
After berating the prosecutors for their “politically motivated investigation”, he explained Fazlic just happened to be the first person to offer to buy his land.
Kola, on the other hand, explained how she, her husband and the Malltezis had worked together to snap up land for Fazlic in order to make a profit. She admitted having “information that this area was approved…by the government as an area for building petrol deposits and hydrocarbons”.
Fazlic told BIRN he had no advance information from Berisha but was “100 per cent sure” the area would be included in the new energy park. ……………….http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/how-berisha-s-inner-circle-profited-from-multi-million-euro-land-deals
15 Jul 14
Fazlic and Lazarevic’s Albanian Shale Gas Venture
A web of secretive offshore firms link energy mogul Vojin Lazarevic and businessman Damir Fazlic to an audacious bid to transform Albania into a hub for US shale gas, BIRN can reveal.
|Vojin Lazarevic and Damir Fazlic plan to build a giant petrol terminal and a hub for US shale gas in Porto Romano. | Photos by Ikar.us/Wikimedia, Beta and Club de Madrid/Flickr
A money laundering investigation into Bosnian businessman Damir Fazlic was aborted when Albanian prosecutors failed to untangle the nexus of offshore companies supplying him with funds.
But the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) has now succeeded in tracking the 2.5m euro funnelled to Fazlic to buy land in Albania, to the offshore empire of Serb energy tycoon Vojin Lazarevic.
And we can reveal that the controversial duo have invested a further 30 million euros into the site in Porto Romano, near Durres, and are now looking for investors to build a giant petrol terminal and a hub for US shale gas.
Fazlic told BIRN that potential backers include American Wesley Clark, the former Nato supreme commander who is involved in a string of Canadian and US energy firms.
The Lazarevic link
|Vojin Lazarevic hides his wealth behind shell companies in offshore havens. | Photo by Beta
Albanian prosecutors opened the 2008 probe into Fazlic, fearing he had been involved in laundering millions of euros through a series of suspicious land transactions, brokered by the daughter of the then Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
The use of offshore firms, the bypassing of the banking system through cash purchases, and repeated sale of the land for larger sums between local villagers, intermediaries and Fazlic all raised red flags for money laundering investigators in Albania………………….
Damir Fazllic – Wesley Clark / Sheraton Hotel Tirana 2012
Vor 5 Jahren als Industrie Park genehmigt, wobei alle Berisha Industrie Zonen private Geschäfte des Betruges waren.
Das Councel der Albanischen Regierung (KRRTRSH) genehmigt den Industrie Park Porto Romana
Die Porto Romana ist ein Langzeit Betrugs Geschäft auch mit Kuvaitischen Geldgebern, die USAID finanzierte Mafia Bank: American Bank of Albania, war einer der ersten Financiers dort, wo die Großen sich tummeln und ständig die Teilhaber wechseln. Entsorgungs Betrug: Die erfundenen Gift Müll Tonnen in der Porto Romana
Auftrags Killer rund um die Macht Kämpfe in der Porto Romana: Gerichts Titel gegen den Mafia Hafen “Porto Romana”
Der neue Schmuggler Hafen “Porto Romana” und Italiens Anti Mafia Jäger Nr. 1 Pietro Grasso: Die Albanische Mafia kontrolliert den Balkan
Albanische – Italienische Küsten Überwachungs Partnerschaft tritt nun in Kraft
Die Firmen von Damir Fazllic, sind Alles Geldwäsche Firmen in Albanien mit Sitz in Zypern dann in Folge und auch in Bulgarien sehr aktiv.Manager Erion Isufi, wo es nie Aktivitäten gabe.
Tom Rich, vollkommen korrupter Lobbyist der Amerikaner und einer der höchsten Politiker einmal. war auch Lobbyiste für die MEK Terroristen.
Mit Tom Rich tauchte Damir Fazllic in Tirana wieder auf.
Rudnap, die Damir Fazllic, Energie Firma!
Albanien fordert eine Internationale Untersuchung in und um die Geschäfte des Karadic Finanziers Damir Fazlic und seiner Geschäftpartner wie Tom Ridge
Luft Geschäfte des Verbrechens, aus 2007, wo man nur die Gelder in eigene Immobilien Geschäfte umleitete.