Albania’s specialised corruption prosecutors (SPAK) have launched investigations into EUR 3.6 million in transactions made by the company that constructed the electricity interconnector to Kosovo, to a company based in the UAE.
The Pandora Papers was a leak of millions of documents that laid bare offshore accounts around the world. According to the leak, Bosnian company, Energoinvest paid the sum to the UAE consultancy company AL Energy Transition, owned by Albanian national Vasil Kallupi.
SPAK refused to give the media any further information on the investigation due to the fact it is ongoing.
While the transactions may not necessarily be illegal, the fact they are routed through an offshore jurisdiction gives way to suspicion.
The company, founded in at the time Yugoslavia, is known throughout the Balkans and has worked on numerous Albanian electricity projects. These include a line between Albania and Montenegro, one in the south of the country, and in 2020, it won a contract to build one between Albania and North Macedonia, alongside Croatian company Koncar.
The UAE company that received the 39 payments totalling over EUR 3.6 million lists Kallupi as CEO on its website and the business plan names him as project manager. However, company documents list Jola Duro, a Tirana-based woman as the ultimate beneficial owner.
Indian fugitives with Albanian citizenship also mentioned
Albania got another mention in the Pandora Papers as the Sandesara brothers, who received Albanian citizenship shortly after fleeing India over a $2.1 billion fraud case, have been revealed as owning a complex web of offshore companies.
Nitin Sandesara has been revealed to have opened a string of six companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore jurisdictions. He claimed the companies were for keeping his savings, not the billions defrauded from Indian banks.
A former executive for the Sandesara’s company, Deepak Barot, also has an Albanian company. Halcon Oil & Gas Limited was incorporated on 6 October 2020 with the involvement of a Nigerian law firm.
A former employee chartered accountant Hemant Sanmukhrai Hathi said that it was common for the family to set up accounts in the names of their inner circle and then use them to facilitate fraud and launder money.
Nitin and his brother Chetan have been under investigation since 2017 and were declared as wanted by the Indian authorities.
Despite their fugitive status, they came to Albania and were granted citizenship by President Ilir Meta in 2018.
Then in January 2019, Nitin was granted the position of honorary consul to Albania, a title he then lost just three months later.
In March 2019, while attempting to board their private jet at Tirana International Airport, Patel, believed to be the brother-in-law of Chetan, was held back and arrested. The other family members were allowed to continue despite the red notices against them. They took off and flew over Sicily and are believed to now be in Nigeria.
In 2019, Exit explained how the family was awarded citizenship while being fugitives. It also explained how they were investing in the country in construction work, reportedly being carried out around by the lake in Tirana and at a resort on the coast.
The OCCRP reported that the sum of their investments is around $33 million. Border information seen by the OCCRP has confirmed that the brothers have been able to move in and out of Albania freely with no issue, despite requests from India for their extradition.
While the Interpol red notice reportedly has been lifted, Chetan has continued to travel into Albania multiple times since March 2020 and as recently as January 2021.