From: Alice Taylor
Albania Continues Payments to Company Embroiled in Government Money Laundering Scandal

Prime Minister Edi Rama has refused to cancel payments to incinerator companies involved in the most significant government scandal of the last 30 years in defiance of the law which would allow it.

The incinerator scandal, first revealed by Artan Rama for Exit News, saw government contracts for waste incinerators worth more than EUR 430 million given to companies with no experience or capital set up by the same individuals.

Those individuals are now on the run, and they, plus several former MPs and members of the government and state institutions, are currently either wanted, under arrest or being investigated.

On Thursday, Rama said the law does not allow the government to cancel concession contracts, and they will continue paying them as per the terms. The agreement sees the government paying for each day the incinerators are not in use, including before they have been built and while still under construction.

This has led to significant delays, with two out of the three still not completed. The third claims there is not enough waste to burn, despite Albania sending over 90% of waste to landfills and therefore continues claiming taxpayers’ money.

Rama told journalists that in terms of ceasing payments, “legally this cannot be done”, adding they would continue ploughing taxpayer money into the companies until there is a final court decision—something that could take years.

This is despite the fact the charges against the government officials, former MPs and company owners include money laundering, corruption, and embezzlement.

He added that he would stop the payments, but as prime minister, he could not.

His claims that concessions cannot be cancelled are, however, incorrect. Article 36 of the applicable law states that each party to the contract has the right to terminate if “there is a serious violation by the other party and that this party cannot correct this violation within the time limit and in the manner specified in the contract.”

Endri Fuga, Rama’s spokesperson, told BIRN that the prime minister was correct.

“The prime minister spoke clearly when he said that the law does not require or allow the prime minister to find a serious violation and that the process in question has no final decision in the meantime.:

This means that Albanian taxpayers’ money, to the tune of millions of euros, will continue being paid to companies owned by individuals on the run and accused of significant financial crimes.

A parliamentary report compiled by the opposition following three months of investigation claims Rama is at the head of organising the scandal. It also points to other ministers currently in government as well as Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj. A parallel report, compiled by the government found no wrongdoing and praised them for their waste management strategy.