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Exit News | 7 January 2021
L’Echo: Italian businessman seizes Albania’s assets in Belgium
Italian businessmen Francesco Becchetti has stepped up his attempt to get the compensation awarded to him in international arbitration against Albania that he won, but that is under appeal.
According to Belgian media L’Echo, Becchetti filed and won a lawsuit in Belgium for the confiscation of Albania’s assets tied to the Eurocontrol organisation.
Albania is one of 41 members of the European body which is responsible for collecting fares paid by airlines for flights over different territories. These fees are then distributed to the countries in the body, including Albania. Becchetti has seized the royalties that Eurocontrol owes Albania, according to the report.
The Court of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes at the World Bank ruled that the Albanian state owes over EUR 100 million to Bechetti and his partners for the unfair expropriation of their investments in a private television station. According to the decision, the government destroyed the investments made by Becchetti in a company that included Agon Channel television.
The conflict between the government and Becchetti started after the 2013 parliamentary elections.
After he came to power, Prime Minister Rama cancelled two concessions of Becchetti from the period of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, which had been renegotiated during the government of Sali Berisha: one for the construction and operation of the hydropower plant in Kalivaç, and one for the construction and operation of a recycling plant.
Meanwhile, in 2015, the Office of the General Prosecutor investigated Becchetti for tax evasion. Initially, the accusations related to tax evasion, forgery of documents, and money laundering to the amount of €39 million, but these were later reduced to tax evasion.
On June 5, the Tirana District Court order the freezing of all Becchetti’s assets, including the companies Energji, Cable System, 400KV, and Fuqi. The blockade also resulted in the closure of his media company AgonSet and the dismissal of about 500 employees of Agon Channel.
On June 8, an international arrest warrant was issued for Becchetti for tax evasion and fraud.
Becchetti, as well as a number of political commentators, qualified the investigation as an intentional attack of the Rama government, because of Agon Channel’s critical stance toward the government.
On June 29, 2015, Becchetti filed a request to institute arbitration proceedings against the Albanian state at the ICSID.
In November 2015, Becchetti was arrested in London, and the Albanian government sought his extradition.
In July 2016, however, the Westminster Magistrates Court decided against the extradition, calling the government’s evidence “totally misleading.”
The court had found that the Albanian government had made, on purpose, false statements in the extradition request, including misleading information regarding Albanian legislation. It qualified the attempts of the Albanian government to be a “manipulation and usurpation” of the juridical process. For these reasons, it voted against the extradition.
The Albanian government has appealed the decision of the arbitration court and have said they will not pay until that process has reached a conclusion.
The article states that the Albanian state owes Becchetti EUR 107 million but refuses to pay them.
The Eurocontrol case has been challenged by the Albanian side which has appealed to the Belgian courts and is expected to receive a response on Thursday.
In November last year, the Austrian daily “Der Standard” published a similar article, which said that Becchetti is seeking the confiscation of Albanian assets in Austria.