An individual believed to have been involved in creating fraudulent transactions in a controversial and under investigation incinerator scheme has also received money from the EU, leading to concerns over the real fate of funds disbursed from the bloc.
An investigation by Albanian portal Monitor has found that EUR 310,000 of EU funds was handed over to an individual linked to a multimillion euro scandal involving waste incinerators that is currently being investigated by the country’s specialist anti-corruption structures.
Albania received millions in EU funds through the IPARD I scheme, with another EUR 112 million announced in May.
Documents published by Monitor show that an individual with the initials EB with the power of attorney to act on behalf of the company running the Tirana incinerator, Integrated Energy BV SPV, received EUR 310,000 under the measure of “investments in physical assets of agricultural farms”.
IPARD funds are non-returnable grants the EU gives the Albanian government in support for increasing capacities in agriculture.
On 16 August 2021, Integrated Energy BV SPV, the company behind the incinerators, sold to EB, an area of 8500 square metres of arable land in Sharre, Tirana. EB, who at the time was an employee of Integrated Energy, then had a consulting contract with Consulting SE Partners, owned by Stela Gugallja, to submit all the necessary documents to the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency to obtain the funds for a hydroponic farm on the land.
Gugallja is wanted for her role in the incinerator scandal and for allegedly laundering money and giving bribes to former MP Lefter Koka. She is currently on the run.
On 22 February 2022, EB became an administrator with the right to sign and represent Integrated Energy BV SPV. The agency then announced that EB won the funds, totalling EUR 310,000. While the funds are believed to have been used for their purpose, the problem lies in the fact they were handed over under these conditions.
The incinerator scandal
Meanwhile, the incinerators scandal, first revealed by Artan Rama in Exit.al, found that concessions had been awarded to a company with no experience in waste incinerating, that had no capital, and with no actual demand for their services.
Furthermore, the contract’s terms stated the government would pay the company for the concession before construction was completed and that they must compensate the concession holders for any time waste is not burnt. This has resulted in long delays in building the incinerators, with two still non-functional and one only partially. Meanwhile, the companies have pocketed millions in taxpayers’ money.
The scandal was picked up by SPAK, who arrested former minister Lefter Koka for abuse of office, corruption and money laundering, while those behind the company disappeared into thin air. Meanwhile, the government continues to pay under the terms of the contract, arguing they cannot breach it.
The government agency responsible for disbursing the funds has refuted the accusation that EU funds have been misused. Agriculture Minister Frida Krifca said that all money from the EU is monitored, meaning it is impossible to divert them.
“The untrue accusations of political entities aim to muddy the work done in recent years for the development of Albanian agriculture, its modernization and the increase of employment in the sector. The irresponsible alibi for the ‘misuse of European Union funds’ is reprehensible”, says the reaction of AZHBR.
They also noted that those involved were not convicted of any crime or offence at the time. But as highlighted in the investigation, this is not the main issue. Rather it is the handing over of EU money to those involved in a scheme which was later revealed to be corrupt, while others were refused on small technicalities.