Albanian Ex-PM Sali Berisha Under House Arrest for Corruption Charges

Sali Berisha, who served as Albania's prime minister from 2005 to 2013 and as president from 1992 to 1997, was placed under house arrest on December 21, 2023, after the parliament lifted his immunity. Berisha, who is also the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, is accused of corruption and money laundering in connection with a land deal involving a Tirana property.

Prosecutors allege that Berisha's son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, exploited his prime minister's post to buy land in Tirana owned by both private citizens and the country's Defense Ministry, and build 17 apartment buildings on the property. Berisha and Malltezi deny the charges and claim that the case is politically motivated by the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Berisha faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Accusations Include Money Laundering Linked to 2008 Tirana Land Deal

The corruption charges against Berisha and his son-in-law stem from a land deal that took place in 2008, when Berisha was the prime minister. According to the prosecutors, Berisha's son-in-law used his influence to privatize land in Tirana that belonged to the country's Defense Ministry and return it to its previous owners, who then sold it at a low price to Malltezi, who built apartments on the land.

The prosecutors claim that the land deal involved money laundering and misappropriation of public funds, and that Berisha interfered with the public process to benefit himself, his family members, and his political allies. The charges were based on a file that was sent to the prosecutor's office in 2020 by the interior minister, who was then the head of the governing Socialist Party's parliamentary group.

Berisha Denies Charges, Alleges Political Motivation by Rival Edi Rama.

Berisha has strongly rejected the corruption charges against him and his son-in-law, and has accused Prime Minister Edi Rama and his Socialist Party of orchestrating a political persecution against him. Berisha said that the charges were "absolutely without any basis and purely and fully political accusations" and that he was ready to face justice.

Berisha also blamed the U.S. and the UK for supporting Rama and his "authoritarian regime", and claimed that billionaire philanthropist George Soros was behind the sanctions that both countries imposed on him for alleged involvement in serious corruption and interference with the judiciary. Berisha called on his supporters to join "a no-return battle" against the Socialists and to defend democracy in Albania.

US and UK Ban: Berisha Accused of Serious Corruption and Judiciary Interference.

In May 2021, the U.S. government barred Berisha and his close family from entering the country, citing his involvement in "significant corruption" during his tenure as prime minister. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Berisha had used "his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members" and had undermined democracy in Albania by interfering in "independent investigations, anticorruption efforts, and accountability measures".

In July 2022, the UK government followed suit and banned Berisha and his family from entering the country, accusing him of "serious corruption" and "interference with the judiciary". The UK Foreign Secretary said that Berisha's actions had "damaged the rule of law and eroded public trust in Albania's democratic institutions" and that the UK was "determined to prevent those responsible from entering the UK". Berisha denied the allegations and said that the U.S. and the UK decisions were based on lies and fabricated by Rama and Soros.