The revelations have hit the front pages of most of the country’s newspapers in recent weeks, have been aired by leading television stations and have led to calls for a tax investigation to be opened into the family of former prime minister Sali Berisha.
The investigation was also picked up in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo where it was republished in more than 20 media outlets.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has revealed how Berisha’s daughter Argita Malltezi, and her husband and colleague, made huge profits from selling worthless land to Bosnian businessman Damir Fazlic.
Fazlic, a friend and adviser to Berisha, then made millions of euros when the premier designated the land an “energy park”, paving the way for massive investment.
BIRN also traced the origin of the investment to controversial Serbian tycoon Vojin Lazarevic and revealed the extraordinary number of foreign energy investors who employed Malltezi as their solicitor as they attempted to launch businesses in Albania.
Fazlic has denied any wrongdoing while Malltezi and her father have yet to comment.
In an editorial for the newspaper Tema, journalist Mero Baze, a vocal critic of Berisha, lauded BIRN and Lindita Cela, the lead journalist in Albania on the investigations.
The story also sparked a reaction from Erion Brace, Socialist MP and chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Economy, who called on the tax authorities to investigate BIRN’s findings.
The stories are the first to be published as part of BIRN’s “Power Games” project, a detailed investigation into the energy sector in the Balkans.
BIRN has spent nine months looking at the key companies, players and state officials involved in this lucrative, secretive and critical sector of the economy.
Power Games is part of “A Paper Trail to Better Governance” project financed by Austrian Development Agency to hone investigative journalism in the Balkans, hold officials to account and improve the implementation and use of freedom of information laws.