From: Exit News
Albania’s Wealthiest Companies Receive Lions Share of COVID-19 Relief

Some of Albania’s biggest and wealthiest businesses have received millions of lek in COVID-19 government aid.

According to an investigation by BIRN, some 1.9 billion lek (EUR 15.3 million) went to ten of Albania’s biggest firms. Most of these have been previous beneficiaries of concessionary agreements with the Rama government. 

These Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been highly controversial in Albania. The Opposition and civil society have vehemently opposed them, claiming they pave the way for corruption. The International Monetary Fund has also repeatedly said that such contracts are unadvised. 

As of 22 June, 751 companies applied for credit from the government. 521 were approved. A list provided to BIRN, however, said that only 236 loans had been approved up until May 29. Out of these, 10 big companies received half of the 3.9 billion lek total.

The biggest beneficiary was American Hospital who previously won a PPP with the Rama administration to provide kidney dialysis. They received two credit lines worth 543.7 million lek.

The second biggest beneficiary was Albchrome owned by Albania’s richest man, Saimir Mane. His company received two credit lines totalling 410 million leks of which they have only withdrawn 62.2 million so far. Other companies owned by Mane have also benefited including Neptun, Fashion Group, and Kidzone. They received a total of 482.5 million lek of which less than a quarter has been withdrawn so far.

Other beneficiaries include Bankers Petroleum, the country’s main oil trader Shefqet Kastrati, Gjoka Konstruksion, Integrated Energy BV SPV, Albtek Energy, Integrated Technology Waste Treatment Fier, and Gjikuria- all of which have won concessions from the state.

Despite stating that it was not the government’s place to assist the media, the government awarded millions of lek to several media companies including Klan TV owned by Aleksander Frangaj, and MTSC owned by Carlo Bollino.

Other big companies including TIBO shpk (a partner of Digitalb), Birra Korca, and Lurasi private university also received large credit lines from the state.