Special prosecutors in Albania seek house arrest and stripped immunity for former Prime Minister Sali Berisha amid corruption probe

 December 13, 2023

An influential and powerful politician in the European nation of Albania is now hearing calls for his arrest and prosecution on allegations of public corruption.

Former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who also previously served as that nation's president, is facing demands from special prosecutors that he be stripped of any parliamentary immunity and placed under house arrest, according to the Associated Press.

The demand comes amid complaints that he refused to adhere to the terms of a prior arrangement, including regularly checking in with authorities, that had allowed him to remain relatively free amid an ongoing corruption investigation involving him and his son-in-law.

Charged with corruption along with son-in-law

Reuters reported in October that former PM Berisha and his son-in-law were charged with public corruption by a special prosecutorial unit that accused the duo of leverging their political influence and power to obtain and privatize public land for their own personal financial benefit.

The allegations had arisen roughly three years earlier in 2020 when Albanian Interior Minister Taulant Balla accused Berisha of privatizing an old publicly-owned sports stadium and the surrounding grounds and then replacing them with multi-story apartment buildings.

Berisha's son-in-law was arrested at that time and placed under house arrest while the former politician, who served as president from 1992-1997 and as prime minister from 2005-2013 and is currently head of the opposition Democratic Party, was allowed to remain free, albeit on the condition that he not leave the country and regularly check in with authorities, due to his immunity from prosecution as a lawmaker.

At the time, Berisha accused the current Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of being behind the whole thing and told reporters, "He ordered his mercenary prosecutors ... The accusations are baseless and are Edi Rama's direct political attacks against me."

Prosecutors now seek house arrest, lifting of immunity

Media outlet Balkan Insight reported that Albania's Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organised Crime, also known as SPAK, formally complained on Tuesday that Berisha had not been checking in with authorities twice per month as he had been ordered to do in October.

As such, SPAK asked Albanian lawmakers to lift Berisha's immunity from prosecution so that he could be placed under house arrest.

Specifically, the prosecutors asked Albania's parliament "for the granting of authorization for the arrest/deprivation of liberty through the replacement of the security measure" involving Berisha.

He is alleged to have made various legislative and legal changes while serving as prime minister that allowed his daughter's husband, Jamarber Malltezi, to purchase the publicly-owned Soviet-era sports stadium and surrounding grounds in order to be replaced with privately-owned apartment buildings in which he had an allegedly lucrative if illicit financial stake.

In fact, the two men are accused of receiving upwards of €5.4 million in illegal kickbacks from the development of the land, and if convicted face anywhere from four to 12 years in prison.

Barred from entering the U.S. or U.K. due to corruption allegations

The AP reported that Berisha has claimed that the order to check in regularly with authorities and to not leave the country were "unconstitutional," but did appear to agree with the stripping of his immunity, and said, "It is a normal request and I will read it in detail. But in principle I agree 100%. There should be no protection for lawmakers different from (common) citizen."

If Berisha is to attempt to avoid prosecution by fleeing the country, he likely won't be going to the U.S. or the U.K. -- at least, not legally -- as both of those nations have barred him and his family from entrance due to the allegations that he interefered in his nation's judicial processes and used "his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members."

Latest News

© 2024 - Patriot News Alerts