Part 2 of a 2 part investigation.
The Sandesara brothers who received Albanian citizenship via mysterious circumstances in 2018, were clients of Henley and Partners, the same company that threw an event in London where Prime Minister Edi Rama announced he would be selling Albanian citizenship in return for investment in the country.
The brothers were declared wanted by Indian authorities in 2017 over suspicions they were responsible for defrauding banks of almost $1 billion. Interpol red notices were issued in their names and extradition orders were allegedly filed by the Indian government in Nigeria and Albania.
In November 2016, they engaged Henley and Partners, an international cash-for-passports concessionaire to do background checks on them, as confirmed by the existence of a large selection of documents. Both brothers then attempted to apply for various passports including Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, and Cyprus.
Documents seen by The Shift News that include invoices, payments, retainers, correspondence, and due diligence documents, show that this relationship continued until at least September 2017.
They were unsuccessful in their attempts to get any citizenship, most likely due to the bad press around the fraud, and the extradition orders against them.
Then in February and March 2017, Henley and Partners executives visited Albania on two occasions. Firstly, Steffen Juerg, Group CEO, visited on 3 February, and then Stefan Krauss COO on 27 February. It’s not known what the purpose of their visit was.
Then in late 2018, the Sandesaras were granted Albanian citizenship while being officially on the run. This happened without any due process or adherence to rules. Furthermore, it should not have been possible considering the warrants against them.
The brothers pledged to invest at least $33 million into real estate development including apartments near the Artificial Lake, and other property in Dhermi.
In 2019, Rama appeared at a citizenship event organized by Henley & Partners in London. In the video, seen by Exit, he made jokes about communism and how the EU would be angry at his decision to sell citizenship.
He was right. The EU, EC, and various European politicians condemned the decision and said it could impact accession and Albanian visa rights in Europe. The plan was quietly shelved.
Then in December 2020, an executive of one of Sandesaras’ embittered companies, Deepak Barot, incorporated a company in Albania. Halcyon Oil and Gas is currently active.
A former accountant for the Sandesara brothers explained how they would funnel illicit funds through webs of companies across the world. These included a number of companies in the names of close associates, that were in fact controlled by the Sandesaras.
The Sandesaras and Barot deny any wrongdoing and say they are victims of politically motivated attacks, but also due to their religion, since they are Muslim.
Henley and Partners said they uphold high standards when conducting due diligence and in recent years have tightened them even further to mitigate risks.
The Albanian government did not reply to questions about how the Sandesaras acquired citizenship or whether Henley and Partners introduced them to Albania.
An investigation into the brothers is currently underway in Albania in relation to money laundering. But fears they enjoy political protection at high levels and the fact they have moved freely in and out of Albania while being fugitives raises questions over the efficiency of this investigation.
Following the publication of this article Henley and Partners requested the publication of the following statement:
“We noticed, and are disappointed, that despite our extensive correspondence with you which made it clear that we did not obtain any citizenship for the Sandesara brothers, you published this article. It is factually incorrect in many respects and even states wrongly in the headline that these individuals were clients when they were not.
The entire story is factually incorrect with regards to Henley & Partners. We have no knowledge of, and we cannot comment on, whether and how the Sandasera brothers may have obtained Albanian citizenship. It has nothing to do with us, and the insinuation in your article that this may somehow be connected to a possible visit by senior executives from our firm to Albania, is wrong and defamatory, as it suggests to the reader that we were somehow involved with helping these individuals obtain Albanian citizenship when we were not.
We clearly stated and confirmed to you that the individuals you refer to in your article have not obtained any citizenship through Henley & Partners.
We are a professional services firm and only deal with formal, transparent, legal residence and citizenship programs, and as such, we do not act “informally” for anyone, anywhere. Any reporting to the contrary is false and defamatory. It is not correct to accuse our firm of wrongdoing without any factual basis.
Furthermore, we cannot comment on any visits or interactions with governments, which senior people in our firm regularly do around the world, whether regarding Albania or otherwise. Regardless, we have never introduced anyone to the Albanian government.