Friday, January 14, 2011

Albania Deputy PM Resigns Amid Corruption Scandal

Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta resigned on Friday following the publication of a video allegedly showing him and former minister of economy Dritan Prifti discussing corrupt deals.

Besar Likmeta

Meta, who is also Albania's minister of economy, told reporters in a press conference that he had presented his resignation to Prime Minister Sali Berisha in order to face justice and prove his innocence.

“I resigned because in order to face justice it’s very important that I forfeit my government duties in order to appear before prosecutors as a regular citizen,” he said.

The transcripts of the videotape, the authenticity of which has not been verified, allegedly show Meta asking the former minister of economy Dritan Prifti to intervene over a hydropower plant concession tender, naming an alleged recompense by a businessman of a seven per cent stake and €700,000 bribe.

Meta also allegedly asks Prifti to hire activists of their party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI. Meta, who is the LSI head and at the time of the recording served as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, also allegedly brags in the videotape about influencing a Supreme Court trial over the same hydro-power plant concession,.

Meta is overheard saying that because he is on good terms with Chief Justice Shpresa Becaj - after having hired her daughter as a diplomat at an embassy - he can influence the ruling of the court.

In repeated media appearances over the last two days Meta has denied any wrongdoing and has attempted to explain some of his comments in the videotape.

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