Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Damir Fazlliç, the way I knew him

"TEMA" Newspaper, Albania

By Mero Baze*

I personally know Damir Fazllic. I think I met him first time on the same day with Sali Berisha, unless the latter was feigning during that first meet in Washington , January 2005. The American company BG&R contracted him as a specialist for Balkans and he would be part of the team for helping PD electoral campaign in 2005. After contract was signed and it was agreed BG&R would stay by the side of PD, Fazllic asked for a contact person in Tirana. KOP (policy orientation committee) had 2 weeks it was created.

Lulzim Basha was not that known during the time. While I had his name on the tip of my tongue to give him as the contact person. Fazllic pronounced it almost like me.- He is the one I need, - he said. Wondered where they knew each other, but I had no bad impression. Like 2 people from Balkan emigrating to Europe and Balkan it was no wonder they knew each other. But BG&R left in July. Damir Fazllic, on the contrary deepened his friendship with Lulzim Basha and his brother-in-law, who for a reason always used to stay two steps backwards or open the car door. In September 2005, during the second week of PD coming into power, they were very clear in their plan. They would make money. Damir Fazllic opened 3 companies within 2 days which always had as administrator Lulzim Basha’s brother-in-law, Erion. He sold the 3 of them later: one in Cyprus and 2 partially to a former Partizani football player of Beograd .

There isn’t much importance on money transfer and fiscal infractions. The worst in all this story is that power moves from Lulzim Basha to Argita and Damir. The advocates she recommends, like Kola or Qeleshi, are the one who wrote the company letters; notary Pustina who works now with Shkelzen is the company notary; Brecani, Berisha’s niece is the company’s accounting expert; Enkelejda Isufi, cousin of Lul Basha brother-in-law is the translator… thus in an endless chain of connections enclosed within a sect which moves from Basha, to Argita and Fazllic flings the whole story of Berisha’s power cupola. By the end of 2005, I had a personal incident with him. Kosovo govt was trying to contract BG&R for lobbying about country’s independence. It was about an amount of $1.5 million. Ibrahim Rugova, who was in his last days of life, couldn’t convince UNMIK for the official payment, while he didn’t accept for underhand payment, like Fazllic proposed. The parties split even inside BG&R. to take control of the situation, Fazllic goes to Beograd and signs an informal agreement with the Serbian deputy Prime Minister, where mentioned that BG&R will lobby for the Serbian govt against Kosovo’s independence. The price was double and terms were lighter.

The other party within BG&R send to me a copy of Fezllic speculation and explained this was not true, but Fazllic was putting pressure on Kosovo’s govt, that if they didn’t sign for the money he would connect to the Serbians. It was hard for Berisha, as a popular person in Kosovo. The nephew Stanisic of was putting pressure on Rugova’s Govt, where he entered with Berisha’s business card.I sent by email to Berisha the contract model of Damir and Serbian deputy Prime Minister. I had no answer. He didn’t open it for three days. All of a sudden the contract was published in Gazeta Shqiptare. I was shocked, as the only person to have it on the email was Sali barisha and me. I asked his secretary about who opened the account profsberisha@albaniaonline.net. She told that only her and any PR consultant. She said possibly Sejamin. I didn’t ask further.

That day in the evening I was in debate on Klan with Edi Rama. It was my first debate with him and I was frightened of getting nervous. The debate started in the most imponderable way to me. Edi Rama was also holding BG&R agreement with Serbia and opened the debate with it. I stopped him untactfully and started explaining it is a fraud. Berisha himself was confused from my explanation and after the debate asked me how “I knew all those things”. I told him I sent him by email, but it ended on Gazeta Shiptare. He never gave an explanation on this, though I understood his discomfort.Two days later I went his office and sent him what could be called “Fazllic“file. There were a pile of writings in the Bosnian and Serbian press accusing him on financial frauds, connections to Legija who killed Gingic but any harebrained person would accuse him either for being a British spy.

He sticked to this last one- They are closed minds. – he said -Don’t you see him named British spy?! - Not everybody, - said I. – Only one. The others call him thief and killer.- Don’t take it for granted, - he said. I had forgotten Damir Fazlliçin, though I saw him often in the boulevard, 2 steps forward Lulzim Basha’s brother-in-law, who continuously changed cars of over 100 thousand euro. One day, early 2006, showed up and told me he brought Tom Bridge as a consultant for Berisha. - I would have brought even Clinton , - said he – by early January 2007.-Great, - Said I and left. While working on the investigation of a terrible corruption file of Telecom, I ascertained that million euros were transferred to a private internet company whose owner brought the director of Telecom as an emigrant from US to Tirana. The director, Ilirian Kuko, an his side was wanted by the Albanian govt as he left without paying $250 000 he borrowed from a bank. Angrily, I go to the Premier and tell him Telecom director cannot be tolerated any further. I told him about the thefts. - I know, - said he, - but I’m afraid my audit made a mistake. That report must be corrected. Then I had to tell him Telecom director was a thief who was wanted and should get arrested. - Don’t publish anything, if I catch him I’ll put him in jail.Feeling uncomfortable, he picked the phone and started talking in English. He was talking to Damir. He asked to provide those papers he promised for Telecom.

After the conversation was closed and I didn’t understand how he would investigate it. Actually I started seeing Damir more often with Shkelzen. The later was kind of legal director “Eagle Mobile”, the lethargic mobile company of Telecom at that time. I don’t know what happened, but attacks on privatization of Telecom stopped and some months later was signed the agreement. The director I cared about was neither was criticized, dismissed or punished. He left free, settling his debt and earning other millions. Then, during summer 2006, an ex friend of Fazllic, member of BG&R, Hans Jones arrives in Tirana with a Greek businessman. He was looking for a kind of research on water-power station of Vjosa. He asked for some meetings with Prime Minister and Minister of Energetic. Berisha welcomed them and sent them to Bojaxhi. He also welcomed them decided to discuss positively when the study started. Some days later it happened to be present in meeting with lulzim basha and he chuckled about a dangerous person. He was Hank Jones. - He arrived in Albania secretly, - said he, - and somebody send him to Berisha. - I sent him, - said i. – As far as I remember he was a friend of Damir. - No, he cheated you, - said he. – he’s not a friend of Damir. He wants to make business here, but as long as I’m alive I won’t allow him. There was anger inside him. He, the man who smiles all of a sudden had become a beast. Someone entered his yard. I was surprised with his aggressiveness. Actually, it was quite otherwise.

I arranged a his meetings but he himself was a go-between for the Greek businessman, a nephew of former President Stefanopulos. Eventually, his project was shut down. No steps were taken to do a research on Vjosa. No consents were given by the Ministry. Later, I learned an Austrian company, behind which stood the ‘Consultancy” of studio “Malltezi” and Damir, was doing a full research on Vjosa. Lulzim Basha was still showing more tranquility.I had the chance to see him one weel later. I went to his office with Mitro Cela and Filip Cakulli. Llazar Angjeli, a distant cousin of Anastas Angjeli, had a serious issue. He was having a gas station along the motorway demolished at the exit of the road to Rinas. He claimed he has permits for it. The 3 of us went to Lulzim Basha. We explained briefly the issue, with the cheer of Filip and my brutality. I told Angjeli thinks you are demolishing it for political reasons. If so, don’t do that, because you have not been in Albania and don’t know who that businessman is. I told him Sali Berisha publicly promised in 2004 he wouldn’t touch the business, as like he said they have nothing with Llazi Angjeli, but they do have with Anastas Angjeli. Basha looked firm. “You’re wrong, - said he. – I have nothing politically, only technically. Even a sack with cotton we put there we have to move it, imagine now a gas station! It does not meet the technical conditions.

He convinced the 3 of us it had to be demolished. He stayed later with me, as to show more confidentiality and re-convinced me for that thing. We painfully told to Llazi. One month later I was in Saranda with Filip, when the waiter offered us whisky for free.- It’s from Llazi, - said he. We greeted Llazi brokenly, as we didn’t finish him the job. But he seemed smiley.- Stupid me wanted to deal with you, - said he. – You just blow things. I sent you as there are rumours these guys of the Doctor don’t take money. How did I know they do, but not from you. We were perplexed until Llazi told us he solved this issue with money. And the gas station actually, though it’s not a sack with cotton, like Basha said, is in the right place. Lulzim Basha’s brother-in-law looked more boasted around. And with a new car also. The idea that Lulzim Basha was a thief stuck in my head.

The case was very illustrative. Damir Fazllic was there if he needed him for any deal. Durres-Kukes road was under tendering process and he was waiting for the new case. Meantime, his brother-in-law was assigned deputy minister and issued road tenders. He classified which was good and bad, according to the affinity they created with it. Fazllic was handling with the consultant company, while the brother-in-law with the Albanian subcontractors. On the Albanian side was found Riviera , a company almost out of all standards on road construction, while tens of other serious companies were in competition. The international consultant Ecorys Netherland BV , was found in Netherland, where Basha and his brother-in-law had arrived. A real mess was done, as the first decision of July 10 2006 assigned Ecorys as the consultant company, by the time when in June 14 2006 by CMD no 481 it’s mentioned this company which proposed the classification criteria of the international bid for Rreshen to Kalimash. (thus one month before it was assigned by CMD, Ecorys Group is mentioned in the CMD no 481) This scandal might not tell the essence of corruption on that road, but it tells the essence of arrogance and unprepared decisions of the duo Basha-Fazllic. By the time local elections were upcoming, lulzim basha was prepared to be the PD candidate for Tirana municipality.

At least, Berisha publicly insinuated this. With this he also justified the demolition of Zogu I Zi. This last one was a perfect combination of a simply personal interest of the closest person of Berisha’s son, Shkelzen, with the ugliness of that crossover. When I learned the true reason why it was being demolished, I felt grief, but when I though it had to be demolished because it was ugly I felt good. But I couldn’t stay tongue-tied. In the debate we had also on Opinion with Sali Berisha,I asked him:- Could you simply explain to us how the idea of demolishing Zogu I Zi generated? It was of you or someone suggested it being an ugly thing? The question was quite simple. He got slightly confused and invented sth. - I can’t remember well, - said he, - I received an official letter telling this is a shame ….He was quite unclear. Tomorrow happened sth which made me think about. Fahri Balliu, my friend from 55 newspaper, told me anxiously that question was the sneakiest. - Why? – said I. – that was a simple question, informative one. - Yes, yes, - said he. – That’s why it was sneaky.I didn’t pay much attention to him. But in the evening, an old friend of mine phoned me concerned. - I do need to see you, - said he. – I got sth to discuss with you. I thought that talk was stupid. Once he was in a club called fiesta with three other friends of Shkelzen who didn’t know he was my friend and heard with his own ears that “Mero Baze is poking his nose into our business and we’ll put in their proper place him and the other people around Berisha”I thought it was a very paranoid conversation. I asked who the others were. He mentioned the name of Raf and a bodyguard of Shkelzen living at Zogu I Zi.

But they didn’t say anything. The one who menaced was a little boy that he didn’t know the name as he was nicknamed “QukapI started laughing and thanked him. Don’t worry said to him, it’s just street talks.Actually, I remembered this episode while PD was choosing its candidate for election in Tirana. Since PD made Basha e hero in the demolition of Zogu I Zi we thought he would be the knight in front of Rama. Discussions started to change and Fazllic was more and more in Berisha’s office. For Basha going into elections would eclipse Fazllic from the scene. The almost guaranteed loss and break of deals for the roads which were a monopoly of the duo Isufi-Fazllic was an alarm. Sali Berisha admitted their schema. All of a sudden he acted like he hadn’t decided who would be the candidate and was looking more and more on Olldashi. This one being loyal to him, accepted, though he knew it would be tough. He handed over two terms and entered the competition. Fazllic showed up in Tirana. And now with 2 or 3 other Americans whom he introduced as consultants. Bombing was extreme. Sokol Olldashi was left in the dark and the campaign was undertaken by Sali Berisha. That was what Edi Rama wanted. He replied every day to Berisha while Edi Shalesi to Sokol Olldashi. Fazlliç and his Americans insisted on being Ok. Meantime, within PD the anger towards Olldashi was like a grief wave.

Mistakenly everybody identified him with Berisha’s power, while being nobody. The one who were his true power were against Olldashi either. I haven’t seen in any electoral campaign so many opponents within a party against their candidate. He had against him all KOP (policy orientation committee) leaded by Basha, has against all votes of old Tirana citizens who are identified as angry supporters of Bamir Topi, whom up to that time was left on the roads without any piece of power, and had against him the no-power people inside PD, as they considered him the pet of Power. He personally had only Sali Berisha, who thought he would help him undertake the campaign. Fazllic was very much worried, why I was so close to Ooldashi. He thought we were doing sth for him to win. And I tried to increase suspects whenever he asked me, though I knew it was a lost battle. Whenever I had him in front he asked me: “Will we win?” And I said Yes. The publication in Shekulli of a list of wanted persons as friends of Olldashi was corny to us knowing the reality, but it helped in creating an environment against him.

I knew it might have been Geri Kokalari to send him, as he had such lists into disposal. But Kokedhima insinuated there was somebody near Berisha and distant from Olldashi. Kokalari was simply used as a postman. But Olldashi lost deep and Fazllic disappeared from my eyes together with his Americans. For several days I had the feeling that if I bumped into Basha or him I would loose control. But it didn’t happen anymore. And I saw him rarely and rarely. By the middle of 2007 he usually stayed at Sheraton with Sejamin, a consultant of Berisha and Tom Ridge , whenever he was here. It seemed they had everything Ok. It was time when Shkelzen also frequented more often Sheraton both with Fatmir Mediu. It was a time in spring 2007 they stayed almost together day and night and got off the same car. It was a time Fazllic seemed calm and had his things going smooth. It’s time where I see he was able to sell a company without any balance, stock or any accounting activity, 1 million & 750 thousand euro a ghost company in Cyprus represented in Albania by the part-owner of the studio of Argita Berisha, Flutura Kola. It was indeed a glorious time for him. Since then, I haven’t seen him anymore. Yesterday, I heard he was arrested thus I wrote these story.

* Mero Baze is the Editor of "TEMA" an Indipendent Albanian Newspaper. www.gazetatema.net

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