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Former Albanian prime minister accused of corruption told to report to prosecutors, stay in country

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An Albanian court ruled Thursday that former prime minister Sali Berisha, who is accused of corruption, must report to prosecutors and not leave the country while his case is under investigation.

The ruling came from the country's Special Court on Corruption and Organized Crime, which was created in 2019 to handle corruption and other crime cases involving senior officials.

Last week, the 79-year-old Berisha announced the charges against him and his son-in-law, 50-year-old Jamarber Malltezi, who was arrested on the same charges of corruption and money laundering.

Berisha has said that both he and Malltezi are innocent and that he considers the case politically motivated by the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

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Prosecutors allege Malltezi exploited Berisha’s position as prime minister to buy land in Tirana owned by both private citizens and the country’s defense ministry and build 17 apartment buildings on the land.

The case was made public last Saturday, three years after Interior Minister Taulant Balla, then head of the governing Socialist Party’s parliamentary faction, sent a file with allegations against Malltezi and Berisha to the anti-corruption court.

Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013 and as president from 1992-1997. He was reelected as a lawmaker for the Democratic Party in an April 2021 parliamentary election.

Both the United States government in May 2021 and the United Kingdom in July 2022 barred Berisha and close family members from entering their countries because of alleged involvement in corruption, using “his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members” and interfering in the judiciary.

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.

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Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini