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11 May 11

Albania Video Corruption Scandal Heads to Court

Albania’s General Prosecutor has filed corruption charges against former Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta, after the broadcast of a video allegedly showing him discussing corrupt deals with another former minister.

Besar Likmeta
Tirana
Ilir Meta | Photo by : Albania MFA

Meta is charged with active corruption and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the video was a montage and his words were taken out of context.

However, prosecutors maintain that they have been able to verify the video as genuine through the help of an American and a British expert.

General Prosecutor Ina Rama filed the charges at Albania's Supreme Court on Monday.

The transcripts of the videotape, which was broadcast in January, show Meta asking the former Minister of Economy Dritan Prifti to intervene over a hydropower plant concession tender, naming an alleged recompense by a businessman of a seven per cent stake or a €700,000 bribe.

Meta also allegedly asks Prifti to hire activists of their party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI. The LSI is the junior government partner in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, and controls the ministries of economy, foreign affairs and health.  

Although it only holds four parliamentary seats, the LSI came out as the kingmaker in the 2009 parliamentary elections, which were narrowly won by Berisha's right-wing Democratic Party.

Meta, who is the LSI head and at the time of the recording served as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, also allegedly brags in the videotape about influencing a Supreme Court trial over the same hydro-power plant concession,.


Meta is overheard saying that because he is on good terms with Chief Justice Shpresa Becaj after having hired her daughter as a diplomat at an embassy, he can influence the decision of the court. He then asks Prifti to keep the affair quiet because he is afraid the prosecutor's office might open an investigation if it learns about it.

The chief justice Becaj has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that her daughter deserved the job.

In a press conference after the video went public, Meta denied any wrongdoing and said that he was “intervening in the name of a business because after an Appeals Court ruling in favour of the company, it was being stalled by the ministry of economy,” then headed by Prifti.

He added that the video was “a disgusting political bluff that was made by organised crime as blackmail against me”.

The tape, which is of poor quality, was shot in Prifti’s office by the former minister, who was dismissed in September over disagreements with Meta.

After his dismissal, Prifti alleged that he had received threats against his life during his time in office. Meta later left his post as minister of foreign affairs and took over the ministry of economy.

However, in a Hollywood twist, Prifti is now also under investigation for corruption as a result of the video scandal. When Prifti released the tape of his talks with Meta to local media earlier this year, prosecutors found another video on the memory of Prifti’s spy cam, which he voluntarily turned over.

“In a moment of the video Prifti is shown dividing a €70,000 sum of money with deputy minister of economy Leonard Beqiraj,” the general prosecutor wrote in February in a request asking the parliament to strip Meta and Prifiti of their immunity from prosecution.

Prifti and Beqiraj have also denied any wrongdoing.

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