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A Pakistani businessman, Zafar Ansar, has accused Argita Malltezi Berisha of having demanded millions of euros in 2007 to secure approval for the construction of a power plant.
Ansar, who was formerly Albania honorary consul in Pakistan, had hired Malltezi’s law firm in 2007 to mediate with the local authorities over the construction of a power plant in Albania worth nearly €100 million.
In an interview with Top Channel TV on Tuesday, Ansar said that apart from seeking standard legal fees, the Prime Minister's daughter asked for a success fee worth up to 3 per cent of the total investment, as well as pressuring him to buy an expensive plot of land.
“I found the correspondence a bit odd as a consulting fee with a 'success' fee was a bit unusual for a legal firm,” Ansar said. “I agreed, knowing she was the daughter of the Prime Minster [and] would be instrumental in achieving the goal of setting up the power plant without difficulties,” he added.
Ansar says that after the initial contacts, Malltezi pressured him to buy a plot of land worth millions of euro for the power plant. When he refused, he says, the local authorities killed the whole project.
“The land that she offered me was a raw piece of land without any infrastructural facilities, very expensive and it did not meet the requirements,” Ansar said.
“Since I did not agree to buy, I was told the project to set up 120 MW power plant would have difficulties and might not be approved,” he added.
The accusations against Malltezi surfaced first in 2007, when the editor of a daily newspaper Tema, Mero Baze, published a series of email exchanges between Ansar and Malltezi’s legal office.
Last week, the opposition Socialist Party accused Malltezi of trading in her father's influence to enrich herself, pointing at the power plant case as an example.
Queried by Balkan Insight, a spokesperson for the general prosecutor’s office, Albi Serani, said that Ansar’s accusations against Malltezi "were not being investigated for the time being”.
In response to the allegations, Malltezi on Wednesday said she had done nothing illegal.
“The businessman in question six years ago contacted me, not the other way around, requesting legal assistance in the preparatory phase of the project,” she said in a statement. “Every action of my legal office has been totally private,” she added.
Malltezi also accused the Socialist leader Edi Rama of slander and said that she would bring legal charges against his party.
“I wanted to remind Mr Rama that only in dictatorships are the legal fees of private businesses set by governments,” she said. “Accusations about blocking investments are ridiculous,” she added.
However, Ansar said he believes that the project was blocked because he refused to buy the land that Malltezi had offered.
After the emails were leaked to the local media in 2007, he says the Albanian authorities pressured him to sue the journalist who published them.
“When my mails were published [former Albanian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia] Admir Banaj asked me several times to sue the reporter who had published my emails,” Ansar recalled.
[After I refused] he became very upset with me and used his influence in the foreign office and Prime Minister's office and removed me as honorary counsel of Albania in Pakistan,” he added.
While the EU accession process has not affected the media’s existential struggle for survival one way or the other, they have made respect for human and minority rights more mainstream.