A building in the seaside Prestige Resort in Golem, 50 km west of Tirana, was demolished by public workers on Thursday, few months after two swimming pools in the same resort were also destroyed.
Government claims all the building was constructed in violation of the formal permit, but representatives from the resort have stated that the action was unannounced and without any court order or paperwork. They said they plan to take legal action in court.
The resort is owned by Irfan Hysenbelliu, a known businessman who operates in multiple sectors, including hospitality, beer production, education, construction and media.
His media outlets, including News 24 channel, Balkan Web, and the daily Panorama, have recently been engaged in a spat with the government.
After government inspectors accused Hysenbelliu of tax evasion to the tune of EUR 1.7 million earlier in 2022, his media outlets started to publish stories levying allegations of corruption against officials in the tax department.
Such claims are yet substantiated, but following the allegations, the government moved against Hysnabelliu’s resort.
“They came in the morning without any warning, put a security tape on the entire territory of the resort, and the police took the employees and tourists out by force,” Folitjona Puravelli, a legal counsellor for the Hysanbelliu Group, told BIRN, referring to the latest demolition.
The lawyer claims the company implemented the construction permit granted in 2016, and there were no unauthorised constructions inside the resort.
Governments’ actions, in this case, have come under particular scrutiny given the fact that the resort is owned by the same group that owns the country’s largest newspaper and largest all-news channel.
Both the media and government have issues with ethics, and a US State Department report on human rights says business owners in Albania use their media outlets to promote their business interests.
“Most owners of private television stations used the content of their broadcasts to influence government action toward their other businesses,” its 2021 report said, concerns echoed by Reporters Without Borders.
But IKMT, the country’s agency that deals with illegal construction, has a similar reputation.
In its 2018 report on Investment Climate, the US State Department observed: “There were credible reports that the government demolished some homes without due legal process as part of a wider campaign to demolish illegally constructed buildings. Citizens also submitted complaints that INUK ignored citizens’ requests to demolish some illegal buildings while choosing to demolish other buildings about which citizens had not complained.”