A few days ago, information regarding an investigation into former General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla’s alleged criminal activity related to real estate and financial transaction has been “leaked” to the media. The source has not been identified and is generally referred to only as a “confidential source.” At times, the news of this “leak” was accompanied with attacks toward Llalla and praise for the Justice Reform, while at others, it had a triumphant tone, as if this were a turning point in modern Albanian history.
The news, however, seems to be fake, and the accusations against Llalla remain mere speculation – no Prosecution Office has opened any official investigation into Adriatik Llalla. Following an inquiry by Exit, the Durrës Prosecution Office, rumored to be the one that launched the investigation into Llalla, declared that no investigation into the former General Prosecutor existed in its records.
Meanwhile, a source within the Prosecution Office, who agreed to speak anonymously, stated that the Prosecution is being pressured by General Prosecutor Arta Marku and foreign representatives to monitor every aspect of Llalla’s public and private activities, keeping an eye out for anything that can be used as grounds for investigation into him. The source states that, under this much pressure, it is bound to be only a few days until an investigation into Llalla is concocted, the fact that no reasonable doubt seems to be present, notwithstanding.
Exit reviewed Llalla’s real estate transactions, based on public information and documentation that included Llalla’s wealth declaration, and Llalla’s own response to our inquiries. The findings are presented below.
Buying and selling real estate
The media claims that Adriatik Llalla is under investigation because of his activity in real estate, namely the purchase and subsequent sale of a plot of land in the outskirts of the city of Tirana, and the purchase of another plot of agricultural land in a village a few kilometers outside Tirana.
The first transaction
In January 2007 Adriati.k Llalla, at the time a prosecutor in Tirana’s Prosecution Office, bought a 3000 sq.m. plot of land in Mjull-Bathore – located on top of a hill overlooking what is now the TEG roundabout, on the right hand-side if Elbasan-bound. Llalla bought the land for 2 million lekë, or approximately $6.7 per sq.m. This price is similar to that of other plots in the area – Exit reviewed at least three other purchase contracts with similar prices.
At the time of Llalla’s purchase, in 2007, the area remained a rural one with little urban or industrial developments. In fact, at the time, there was barely any urban development outside of Tirana, with the exception of local restaurants and illegally constructed houses.
In the following years, Tirana began to rapidly expand toward its suburbs, especially the areas along the road to Elbasan, in Sauk, Farkë and Lundër. As a result, the area surrounding Llalla’s property became the site of new urban development that included the construction of villas, residential compounds and shopping centers.
As a result of the area’s rapid urbanization, in less than a decade, the property values increased, on average, 10-15 times and, in certain residential areas, over 30 times. In order to properly match property tax to value in the face of this rapid increase, in October 2013, the Rama government declared that anyone who would undergo reassessment of property would only have to pay a 2% tax on the difference between the former property value and the new, instead of the usual 15%. The same tax amnesty was repeated once more in 2016.
Adriatik Llalla took advantage of this tax amnesty and his property was reassessed. Licensed experts decided, following two reassessments, on a €100 per sq.m. value.
In June 2016, Adriatik Llalla sold the property for €240,000, or €80 per sq.m., to a construction company who planned on building a residential compound on it.
This price is similar to that of other properties in the area. Exit did a quick survey by asking the owners of the properties bordering Llalla’s and found out that the lowest going price was €75 per sq.m. while the highest was €120 per sq.m.
A bank made a similar price assessment for a property bordering Llalla’s. Part of the land directly downhill from Llalla’s property is owned by an entrepreneur who took out a loan from Alpha Bank in order to build a residential compound. The mortgage was taken out on the land, and it was valued at €100 per sq.m. After the entrepreneur was unable to pay back the loan, Alpha Bank confiscated the property that is now being being sold for €80 per sq.m.
All of Llalla’s transactions – the purchase, both reassessments of the property, and the sale – were accompanied by with the appropriate contracts, have been notarized, reported to the proper tax authorities and all related taxes have been paid. Exit was able to review the documentation proving that the transactions were carried out to the letter of the law and the procedures it mandates. It is important to note that the purchase and sale of this property, as well as the one discussed below, have been registered by Llalla at the High Inspectorate of the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest (ILDKPKI) and have undergone inspection during his assessment.
The second purchase
Later, between December 2016 and May 2017, Adriatik Llalla purchased, via four separate contracts, approximately 24,300 sq.m. of land in the village of Qeha-Shytaj, in a rural area to the South-East of Tirana, in which there is no urban development to speak of.
The land was purchased for 15,930,000 lekë, or $6.6 per sq.m. This price matches those of the area. In the vicinity of Llalla’s property, a Rama government minister and several other public figures that must undergo legally mandated wealth declaration have also bought land. The price they have paid for their properties is either equal to or lower than the one Llalla paid.
The Albanian representative of Germany’s public broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), was the first to publish the fake news declaring the beginning of the investigation into Llalla on March 25 2018. It is a bit unusual for a foreign media correspondent, a public media no less, to investigate instead of merely reporting. It is also strange that the fake news regarding the investigation is related in a long piece resembling a propaganda pamphlet more than a newspaper article.
The article does not provide sources for the claims it makes, mixes opinion with reporting, makes unfounded accusations, and uses emotionally charged language and hyperbole. For example, at one point the author writes that Llalla is being investigated related to charges of “money laundering of a high degree”, which is laughable, seeing as, not only is this false, as explained above, but, furthermore, the words “of a high degree” appear nowhere in Albania’s Penal Code, making it unlikely that any Prosecution Office document ever used them. The author also refers to “financial transactions with persons that have a criminal record”, which is also false.
The fact that the article, titled “Vetting jumpstarts judicial engines”, sings praises to vetting and the Justice Reform without acknowledging, even in passing, several issues regarding the latter’s unconstitutionality or the failures in implementing the Justice Reform is also a good indicator of the author’s bias.
It’s clear that the correspondent has received both the information and the approach to it from others. She, in all fairness, even gives credit in her article, referring, at one point, to “diplomatic sources” in Tirana. At the same time, a source within the Prosecution Office told Exit that this entire public campaign pushing for an investigation into Llalla is being sponsored by a foreign embassy, that seems to have total control over the country’s Prosecution and entire justice system.