From: Alice Taylor
Criminal Complaints Filed Against Albanian Construction Magnate for Alleged Destruction of Area of Natural Beauty

123 residents of Lumas have filed criminal complaints against the owner of the Salillari company, Pellumb Salillari.

They have accused him of cutting down pine trees, burning 30 hectares of forest, and quarrying in parts of the Osum River. Residents have also reported the mayor of Dimali, Juliana Mema, to the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution (SPAK) for abuse of office.

At the end of July, the same residents filed charges against Ardi Veliu, the Director of the Police, for corruption. They claimed that the police were used as private guards of the Salillari company, and weaponized against the residents.

Residents of Lumas have been in conflict with the Salillari company for several months to prevent the construction of a water supply system at the source of the Sinec River, which is classed as a natural monument.

The Sinec Canyon otherwise known as “the blue eye” of Berat was declared a natural monument by the government in 2002 due to its natural beauty and the diversity of flora and fauna at the site.

But in 2019, the Rama government repealed the decision and removed its protection. This paved way for the Salilari company to use it for commercial purposes. Immediately after the project was repealed, the project that Salillari is now trying to carry out was won. It risks the destruction of the entire site, plus the plants and animals that live there.

The contract is worth over 354 million lek (EUR 2.92 million). Salillari enjoys the lion’s share of government contracts and tenders, including controversial ones. Earlier this year, a newly constructed and supposedly well-maintained road built by the company collapsed in Borsh.

This was despite the fact work had been carried out on it recently. Large cracks were also reported on the Corovode-Permet road and the Vlora-Orikum road, which were also constructed by Salillari.

Prime Minister Edi Rama attacked those criticizing the state of the road and said it was a “witch hunt” and people were just jealous of Salillari’s success.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Ora News journalist Elio Laze filmed Salillari crews working despite being in violation of lockdown rules. A member of staff proceeded to threaten and physically manhandle the journalist. Calls on the authorities to react to the threat were not heeded.