Albanian governing lawmaker held over waste-management graft

March 31, 2022 GMT

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian police on Thursday arrested a governing Socialist party lawmaker on charges of corruption and abuse of power over a waste management project, a day after another 9 government-appointed officials were taken into custody on similar charges.

Police said the charges against Alqi Bllako stem from a concession contract for a waste incinerator in the western city of Fier, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Tirana. The deal allegedly caused a loss of about 1.5 million Euro ($1.7 million) to the public finances. Bllako is accused of falsifying documentation and accepting bribes.

Bllako resigned his seat in parliament — which carried immunity from prosecution — when the charges were announced Wednesday. He denies wrongdoing.

Also Wednesday, police announced the arrest of another 9 government-appointed public officials for alleged corruption in two cases of waste incinerator concessions.

In December, Socialist former environment Lefter Koka was arrested over the incinerator scandal. All deny wrongdoing.

The special prosecutor’s office said that besides the arrests, the assets of two companies and some 2 million euros ($2.2 million) worth of personal property and assets linked with the suspects have been temporary sequestered.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has pledged to crack down on corruption, which has plagued post-communist Albania for decades.

The suspects face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The country’s center-right main opposition Democratic Party has accused Rama’s left-wing government of money laundering and corruption in handing out some 430 million euros ($480 million) for waste incineration projects to party-linked businessmen.

Waste processing has been and remains a serious concern for Albania, and a top priority — together with fighting corruption —in its efforts to join the European Union.