Sali Berisha and his son-in-law face corruption charges related to the alleged misuse of political influence, and Berisha is barred from leaving the country.
Albania’s former prime minister Sali Berisha says that prosecutors have charged him with corruption and money laundering in connection with a land deal involving a Tirana property.
Berisha, 79, said the prosecutor's office in charge of cases against senior officials or major cases, ordered him not to leave the country.
Berisha also said his son-in-law, 50-year-old Jamarber Malltezi, was arrested on the same charges at Tirana International Airport. Berisha said both he and Malltezi are innocent.
“On these charges I declare that they are absolutely without any basis and purely and fully political accusations from (current prime minister) Edi Rama,” he said at a news conference on the weekend.
Rama did not immediately respond to Berisha's claim.
The Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime office alleges that Berisha's son-in-law exploited Berisha's position as prime minister to privatise land in Tirana owned by the country's Defense Ministry and return it to its previous owners, who immediately sold it at a low price to Malltezi, who built apartments on the land.
The charges come three years after Interior Minister Taulant Balla, then head of the governing Socialist Party’s parliamentary grouping, sent a file with allegations against Malltezi and Berisha to the prosecutor’s office.
Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013 and as president from 1992-1997. He was re-elected as a lawmaker for the Democratic Party in an April 2021 parliamentary election.
In May 2021 the US government barred Berisha and his close family from entering the country because of alleged involvement in corruption.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that during Berisha’s 2005-2013 tenure as prime minister, the politician was involved in corrupt acts and had used “his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members.”
Blinken also accused Berisha of interfering in “independent investigations, anticorruption efforts, and accountability measures.” He said Berisha’s “corrupt acts undermined democracy in Albania.”
Since then, Berisha’s main opposition Democratic Party is in turmoil with different factions fighting for the party’s leadership and legal registration.
Fighting corruption has been post-communist Albania’s Achilles’ heel, strongly affecting the country’s democratic, economic and social development. Berisha was the fourth top Albanian official to be barred from entering the United States because of alleged involvement in corruption.