On Friday, the Court of Tirana accepted the request of Tirana Prosecution Office to close investigations into two tenders worth €30 million awarded to a ghost company. No government official will face any charges.
Prosecutor Esmeralda Imeraj pressed charges only against Avdjol Dobi, the 26-year-old man who registered the fraud company in Albania and who is on the run. He stands accused of forging documents to win a government tender for the controversial Ring Road project, worth some €18 million.
Avdjol Dobi registered a company ‘DH Albania’ in July 2018 as a subsidiary of the US company Dunwell Haberman. Registered in Delaware, a well-known tax haven, documents stated that it was founded in 1998 and had a vast economic activity worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The company then applied for two government tenders- around €18 million for the New Ring road and €12 million for the construction of the Burrel power line.
It won both but it was then discovered that the documents used to register the company in Delaware, and the three-year balance sheet were falsified. With the parent company being registered illegally and fraudulently, it follows that the Albanian subsidiary and all bids made in its name should be voided.
An investigation was opened into the matter in December 2018 and in January 2019 the Prosecutor’s Office and Prosecutor Elisabeta Imeraj promised a full investigation into the matter as well as officials of the Albanian Road Authority and the TSO, and links to an Albanian company Gener 2 owned by businessman Bashkim Ulaj.
An investigation by BIRN suggested that the shareholders of the fraudulent US company could be linked to Gener 2, which won a €225 million concession for the construction of the Thuman-Kashar road.
Prosecutor Imeraj also demanded the arrest of Dobi for falsification of documents, fraud, and money laundering.
The Opposition accused Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister Damian Gjiknuri (whose voices appear on the infamous Albanian Electiongate wiretaps) of being behind the company, something they both deny.
Then just one year later, Prosecutor Imeraj decided not to press charges against any public official involved in the matter and closed the case completely. Charges were pressed only against Avdjol Dobi whom the police have not been able to locate since 2018.
The New Ring road project has been mired in controversy due to the fact it involved demolishing hundreds of homes, many of which were going through legalization procedures. By demolishing them before the procedures are complete, the government avoids having to pay compensation to those that will become homeless. Residents have been protesting against the project for almost two years yet both Rama and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj have said the project will go on regardless.
Other controversies include the fact that one of the tenders awarded to DH Albania, worth €18 million is for the widening of an existing road just 2km in length. This high price is unprecedented for this kind of work and will make it one of, if not the most expensive stretch of road in the country.