From: Exit Staff
Albanian Incinerator Businessman has Interests in Malta

Gazmend Bardhi, General-Secretary of the Democratic Party, has accused former minister Damian Gjiknuri of travelling to Malta with Mirel Mërtiri, the businessman involved in the controversial incinerator affair, but has not provided any public evidence for the claim. Exit investigation found that Mertiri has business interests in Malta, a residence permit, and potentially owns property.

In parliament last week, Bardhi said Gjiknuri travelled 15 times with both Mertiri and Klodian Zoto between November 2013 and 2019. Allegedly, Mertiri invited Gjukniri to visit his home in Malta, just before the deal was signed. No evidence was made available to allow independent verification of the claims.

Gjiknuri has denied the claims adding he had nothing to do with the incinerator deal and had only made one official trip to Malta as a minister.

“I did not travel with those people,” he said.

Documents seen by Exit from the Malta business registry show that Mertiri is registered as living at one of the islands most exclusive and luxurious complexes, Portomaso. The complex was built by Tumas Group, previously owned by Yorgen Fenech, the man charged with ordering the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He also held a Maltese ID card and Maltese residency as recently as 2018. Mertiri also owns two Maltese companies called KL Group and Sien Group Ltd. KL Group is part-owned by KLME Holding LTD, a Seychelles company mentioned in the Paradise Papers leak.

Exit Explains: Albania’s Three Waste Incinerators

Last week, the Opposition called for a committee of inquiry into the waste incinerator deals. On Thursday, 28 October, the request got 117 votes out of 140. The committee will be tasked with investigating the contracts for at least three incineraors, their implementation, and their impact on the Albanian economy.

The Albanian government has been paying three concession holders €72 million since 2015 for the construction and operation of three incinerators, two of which have not yet been built, while the other is operating at half capacity. 

The plan was that the incinerators would burn waste for energy, creating a revenue stream while dealing with the issue of waste disposal in the country.

All three incinerators were given to the same group of people, creating virtually a monopoly.

The Albanian incinerators were created from no demand, no requirement, and no official proposal, only following a request from a newly set up company, with no capital or experience. Meanwhile, a fourth deal has been signed for Vlora.

Fourth Incinerator Concession Approved by Albanian Government

Mertiri is one of the benefactors of the incinerator project, making millions from incinerators that are yet to start working. 

The dubious procedure was further exacerbated by the terms of the contracts, which appeared to favour the companies to the detriment of the state.

  • The government had to start paying the concessionaire before the construction is completed;
  • The government has to compensate the concession holders when they do not have any waste to burn.

As a result of these terms, the concessionaires have delayed construction while regularly receiving government payments.

Mertiri has also filed SLAPP suits against journalists who reported on the scandal.

Meanwhile, Malta was added to the FATF grey list over growing concerns of money laundering and financial crime earlier this year.