US sanctions former Albanian leader Berisha for corruption
The United States on Wednesday sanctioned former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha for alleged “significant corruption” and barred him, his wife and children from entering the United States.
Berisha, 76, who was also President of Albania from 1992 to 1997, is currently an MP representing the opposition Democratic Party.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that during Berisha’s tenure as Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013, the politician “was involved in acts of corruption, such as embezzlement of public funds and the ‘interference with public processes, in particular by using its power for its own benefit. and enrich his political allies and members of his family.
The statement alleged that “Berisha’s own rhetoric demonstrates that he is prepared to protect himself, his family members and his political allies at the expense of independent investigations, anti-corruption efforts and accountability measures.”
In response, Berisha lamented Blinken’s accusations and urged the US administration or anyone in the world “to make public any evidence or document” that supports US sanctions.
Berisha’s successor at the head of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, also called for “full transparency on any evidence or document” linked to the US decision. He described Berisha as the Albanian leader who made “the most remarkable contribution to the development of the country and to the strengthening of democracy”.
Berisha was the first leader of the center-right Democratic Party, which was formed in December 1990 after a student protest overthrew the Communist Albanian regime.
He was elected Albania’s second post-communist president in 1992. During his presidency, a pyramid system in which many Albanians lost their savings brought the country to the brink of anarchy.
The Democratic Party won the 2005 election and Berisha became Prime Minister for two terms until 2013. Since then he has been a member of parliament, and was recently re-elected last month.
Berisha is the fourth senior Albanian official to be banned from entering the United States over alleged involvement in corruption, after former Attorney General Adriatik Llalla, former lawmaker Tom Doshi and Vangjush Dako, former mayor of the western port city of Durres.
The fight against corruption has been the Achilles heel of post-communist Albania, strongly affecting the democratic, economic and social development of the country.
“The corrupt acts of former Albanian President Sali Berisha have undermined democracy in Albania,” Blinken tweeted Wednesday.
A key justice reform was approved in 2016 after direct involvement from Washington and the European Union. Many judges and prosecutors have been dismissed for alleged corruption and illegal gain of property and money.
“With this designation, I reaffirm the need for accountability and transparency in democratic institutions in Albania, government processes and the actions of Albanian officials,” Blinken said of the sanctions against Berisha.
This story has been corrected to show that Berisha was the second president of Albania after the fall of communism, not the first.
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