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news 06 Nov 15

Becchetti Faces Possible Extradition to Albania

Francesco Becchetti, the Italian businessman wanted by the Albanian authorities, is due to attend a procedural extradition hearing in London next month.

Fatjona Mejdini
Francesco Becchetti | Photo: Facebook.

Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in the UK on December 7 for a procedural hearing that will consider an extradition request by the Albanian authorities.

Becchetti, 49, was arrested in London by officers from the UK’s Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit on 26 October on behalf of the Albanian authorities.

The Albanian government issued an arrest warrant for him in June on charges of fraud and money laundering between January 2012 and October 2013.

He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the same day of his arrest and was released on bail after handing over his travel documents.

According to a report published by the UK Daily Mail news website, Becchetti is under curfew between 11pm and 5am and is not allowed to leave the country.

The Albanian authorities issued the arrest warrant following a two-year investigation into the allegations. Prosecutors have seized his assets in Albania, including bank accounts and company shares in his name – including his commercial TV station Agon Channel.

The charges centre on his involvement with the Kalivaci hydropower plant. Becchetti obtained the concession to construct a new plant with the Italian company BEG on the Vjosa River in southern Albania.

Becchetti strongly denies the charges, which he described as “demonstrably groundless, improperly motivated and unsupported by any evidence” in a written statement.

He has also claimed that the charges against him are the result of stories broadcast by Agon Channel that criticised the Albanian government.

“Because of Mr Becchetti’s ownership of Agonset Shpk, an Albanian company operating the Agon Channel TV station, which advocates freedom of speech and which has broadcast stories that are critical of the Albanian government, Agonset and the TV station have been attacked by the government,” the written statement continued.

In particular, the statement highlighted stories broadcast by Agon Channel in May 2015 ahead of local elections in Albania that claimed electoral lists had been manipulated with some voters obtaining fake identity cards resulting in “a single person being able to vote up to 20 times”.

The Italian is well-known in England, having bought the London football club Leyton Orient in 2014.  

A substantive extradition hearing following Becchetti’s court appearance on December 7 is not expected to take place until next year.

The spokesperson of General Prosecutor office, Albi Serani told BIRN on Wednesday that they expect Francesco Becchetti to return to Albania to face the charges by December 15.

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