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27 Nov 08

Indicted Albanian Minister Avoids Questioning

Tirana _ Albania's Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha, charged with abuse of power relating to the construction of the Albania-Kosovo highway, did not show up for questioning before prosecutors on Thursday.
He was represented in the general prosecutor’s office by his lawyer Zef Nika. Nika denied in a statement the charges against Basha and claimed his indictment was illegal.

Formerly the foreign minister, who risks up to 12 years in prison, had declared publicly that would present himself in front of prosecutors.
 
Basha was charged on Monday by General Prosecutor Ina Rama with abuse of power in the case, which is thought to have cost the state something in the range of €230 million.
 
The evaluation was made using the average price of construction material and labour costs in comparison to what Albania is paying to build the road.
 
The highway, which links the port of Durres with Kosovo and includes a six kilometre-long tunnel, is the country’s biggest public works project in decades.
 
Almost 89 per cent of Albania’s capital expenditures during the 2008 fiscal year have been spent for the on the highway, data published by Ministry of Finance suggests.
 
For the nine months ending on September 30, Albania had spent €328 million from its €373 million capital expenditures budget on the road.
 
About half of this sum was raised in the international market as syndicated commercial loans. Albania will need to invest another €250 million to complete the project, due to be finalised in the summer of 2009.
 
Prosecutor General Ina Rama has been probing alleged irregularities in the tender for the construction of the highway won by the American-Turkish consortium, Bechtel-Enka. Read more: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/14935

The charges relate to the time when Basha was Transport Minister. Basha’s immunity was lifted by parliament at the end of December last year. Apart from the Basha, the former head legal adviser of the minster, Andi Toma has been charged with abuse of power
 
Toma has denied the charges against him. According to prosecutors the case will head to court before December 6.

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