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Prime Minister Sali Berisha on Tuesday called for a probe into a report's claims that more than $1.3 billion (€983 million) were spirited out of Albania over five years.
Claims that huge amounts so money have been smuggled out of Albania, largely by tax evaders, have embarrassed the government of Sali Berisha into calling for an investigation.
“This is a strong motive for an investigation,” Berisha said of the report's findings during a meeting of the state committee against organized crime.
“The prosecutor’s office and police should make every effort to shed light on who is behind these transfers,” he added.
The Washington-based anti-corruption advocacy group Global Finacial Integrity, GFI, said in its 2012 report that sums equivalent to a third of Albania’s annual budget had flowed illicitly out of the country over a period of five years.
The report said the money had disappeared through a combination of corruption, tax evasion, and other illegal activities.
Clark Gascoigne, a spokesperson for the watchdog, told Balkan Insight that they believed 60 per cent of this money came from tax evasion, 35 per cent from criminal activity and 5 per cent from corruption.
GIF, which uses official World Bank and IMF data, says that in 2008 alone, $405 million (€306 million) disappeared from Albania, while an annual average of $131 million (€99 million) moved into offshore tax havens.
“It’s an enormous amount of money for a country like Albania too lose, and if this money had stayed inside the country, it could have been used in infrastructure, education and to pull people out of poverty,” Gascoigne said.
“On top of that, these outflows fuel the underground economy, crime and corruption, exasperating income inequality by making the rich richer and the poor poorer,” he added.
To keep its reform policy credible for investors, the government must find common ground with the IMF and look for a new arrangement, experts say.