We are discussing with an investigation and auditing company that is led by FBI agents… former FBI agents, that will come here.
This is what Prime Minister Edi Rama declared yesterday in front of police directors and deputies of the parliamentary Security Commission. As can be seen in the video (at 45:39), the Prime Minister in fact first stated that the company was led by “FBI agents,” only later to correct this piece of public misinformation by saying “former FBI agents.”
Prime Minister Rama made this claim in the context of his announcement that foreign law enforcement aid would soon arrive in Albania. To illustrate this, he declared that in the coming days an FBI agent and a German security officer would arrive in Albania, who would assist the police in the battle against crime.
However, the context of the Prime Minister’s affirmation and the aim of declaration were not only misinformation, but also raise serious question marks.
Freeh Group International Solutions
The private firm that Prime Minister Rama referred to in his speech, and which is expected to be contracted in the coming days, is Freeh Group International Solutions, a company founded and led by former FBI director (1993–2001) Louis J. Freeh.
Freeh’s company, which hires former FBI agents and former law enforcement agents, is specialized in private investigations concerning fraud and financial corruption in private organizations and and the financial and legal auditing of companies.
Lousi Freeh is a well-known figure with a long experience in the field of criminal investigations and with access to many law enforcement and political networks in Washington. However, his private and for-profit activities have no direct relation whatsoever to the FBI or US governmental institutions.
Prime Minister Rama decide to contract Freeh’s company a few months ago, and the main aim doesn’t seem to be actual investigation, but rather lobbying and image building.
Freeh visited Albanian on a personal title in March 2017. As part of this visit, he met with Minister of Interior Affairs Fatmir Xhafaj, who was on his first day in office, after the dismissal of Saimir Tahiri. The Ministry and government media trumpeted that Freeh had “offered the maximum support of the US government and the FBI to strengthen the battle against crime and lawlessness in the country,” even though Freeh himself admitted that he come to the exiled members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq.
Exit contacted the press office FBI about the visit, which responded:
Louis Freeh is a private citizen, and acts as such. He currently has no formal relation, and does not in any way represent the FBI or aw enforcement organizations of the United States.
It is unclear whether Freeh’s contract has been under negotiation since March, or whether they were only started after the meeting with Minister Xhafaj in March. In any case, it is clear that after securing his second mandate and especially because of the great pressure to address the rampant crime and corruption in his country, Prime Minister Rama appears to have decided to contact Freeh.
A police or political concession?
As in all other cases, the procurement practices of the government are thoroughly opaque. The specific area of consultancy in which Freeh’s company will offer its services is unknown, just like the legal status of a group of private investigators contracted by a public law enforcement institution.
Also the legal basis for the procurement of this contract is unclear, because the government is obliged to announce an open, international public procurement procedure to contract such services.
Another worry is, of course, the way in which the Ministry of Interior will harmonize the official assistance and technical consultancy of the FBI – Rama announced the arrival of an FBI agent – with a group former FBI agents employed by a private company.
But one thing can be surmized easily: the contract with Freeh serves to profit from his name, his influence and lobbying contacts with US law enforcement agencies, rather than from his actual technical assistance.
The collaboration with Freeh follows the habit of Prime Minister Rama of contracting former politicians to buy his way into international political circles, not in order to gain their expertise, but rather the prestige that comes through associating with them.
During his four years in government, he has made consultancy contracts with a large number of former public officials, including for UK Prime Minister and war criminal Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair and her consultancy firm Omnia Strategies; former EBRD president Jacques Attali; former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson; professor Ricardo Hausman and the Center of International Development at Harvard University; Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbel, and so on.
All of these people have been used for the personal propaganda and image building of Prime Minister Rama, without offering any substantial or genuine assistance to the country.
Who is Louis J. Freeh?
After a career as special investigator of the FBI and judge in New York, Louis J. Freeh became FBI director from 1993 to 2001. After resigning from his post, Freeh followed in the footsteps of many former civil servants, by entering the private market and selling his expertise and connections.
Through two companies, Freeh Group International Solutions and Freeh Sporking & Sullivan, Freeh has offered his services to a broad range of clients, from FIFA to Daimler and Penn State University. He has regularly defended clients accused for corruption by governments or law enforcement organizations, such as a Saudi prince accused of corruption with military aircraft, an Israeli billionaire accused of bribing an African government for a mining concession, and recently a Romanian businessmen convicted for corruption.
Freeh has amassed a large personal fortune through his consultancy practices, recently acquiring a $10 million villa.