Monday, November 14, 2011

Albania to Ground Airline Owned by Arrested Businessman

Albania’s National Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, on Friday suspended the licence of Albanian Airlines, a company owned by the arrested Turkish businessman Ali Evsen.

Besar Likmeta
Albanian Airlines Airbus -320 | Photo by : Aldo Bidini

Denion Ndrenika, a spokesperson for the NCAA, told Balkan Insight that the airline's flight licence had been revoked on the request of the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA.

“EASA was concerned about the company’s financial warranty for its planes, so it asked the authorities to revoke its license,” Ndrenika said.

According to Ndrenika the company has two weeks to convince EASA that its finances are in order before its flights are completely grounded. Ndrenika could not specify whether the airline's problems were connected to the owner’s legal problems.

EASA officials could not be reached for a comment on Friday.

Albanian Airlines described the move to strip it of its flight permits as illegal, arguing that the company had met all the flight standards required by local and international authorities.

“Albanian Airlines has always conformed to EU rules and has cooperated in the auditing conducted by Albanian and international authorities,” the company said. “Blocking the company’s operation unjustly will ground its flights,” it added.

Albanian Airlines is owned by the Evesen Group. The president of the company, Ali Evesen, was arrested in June in Spain together with businessman Hussein Salem, a close aide to ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Both man, as well Salem’s son, who was also detained in Spain, are suspected of money laundering.

After the arrest, Albanian prosecutors launched a joint probe with their Turkish and Spanish counterparts, seizing million of Salem’s assets in Albania, including funds from Albanian Airlines.

Through his lawyer in Albania Evsen has denied wrongdoing and entered a not guilty plea before the high court in Spain.

Albanian Airlines, in which Evsen bought 93 per cent of the shares in 2009, flies to 12 destinations from Tirana International Airport.

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