Discussion: The privatisation of NBI Suhareka winery

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Justice in Kosovo broadcast a programme about the privatisation process of the NBI Suhareka wine enterprise, including high-profile suspicions about secret deals between businessmen.

Questions covered included:

How much did Suhareka’s mayor, Blerim Kuci, pay for his shares in the enterprise? Why have workers there been striking for three months? Is Mr. Kuci responsible for the destruction of the winery in central Suhareka? Who bought its assets cheap, and why did the Kosovo Privatisation Agency turn a blind eye to the winery’s ‘destruction’? Who has cut down hundreds of hectares of vines in Suhareka, and who plans to build there? Why have Italian businessmen asked for help from the Italian ambassador to Prishtina, and why did conflicts arise between Albanian stakeholders?

To discuss about these and related issues, journalist Kastriot Jahaj interviewed:

  • Blerim Kuçi – mayor of Suhareka municipality;
  • Roberto Migotto – owner of QMI
  • Fazli Morina – former director of production at NBI Suhareka;
  • Malush Sopa – head of the NBI Suhareka workers’ union; and
  • Habib Usaj – former managing director of the enterprise, after privatisation.

NBI Suhareka, which once produced tons of wine and other grape products, has faced constant problems since it was privatised.

Opening the report, Mr. Sopa said “in principle, we all agreed that the enterprise would be privatised. We thought that privatisation would mean that production would increase, but the opposite happened.”

He also said that the privatisation procedures were a problem and that politicians were not interested in improving the enterprise’s performance.

On the other hand, Mr. Kuçi confirmed that there had been an agreement that, following the privatisation of NBI Suhareka, the grape cellar would be destroyed. “This was necessary because the cellar’s location was completely inappropriate,” he claimed.

This particular agreement was formulated in such a way that it ensured the destroyed cellar would belong to Mr. Kuci.

On this point, Mr Kuci said “I am not a shareholder, but we agreed with the company that won the tender that post-privatisation I could acquire certain rights…This agreement was not hidden therefore, and all relevant organs [of the state] were aware of this”.

Mr. Migotto said that the money needed to bid for NBI Suhareka was borrowed. According to him, this does not make Mr. Kuçi a shareholder. “I have taken money from banks and family members.

The Mayor of Suhareka funded this activity to the tune of 450,000 euro… with the one condition that, after privatisation, the property should belong to him. Later, he concluded that in financial accounting, this activity should be listed as a debt.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Morina said that the mayor’s only interest concerns this cellar, which he wants destroyed in order to construct high buildings.

“All of us have been forcibly fired… After a while, they started employing around 40 workers. We have complained to the Kosovo Privatization Agency and the Kosovo Trust Agency, and we have said that the enterprise is being destroyed [and] robbed, and we have submitted all the necessary evidence for this,” Mr. Morina concluded.

According to Mr. Usaj, Blerim Kuci has not had any influence over, or role in, the privatisation process for NBI Suhareka.
He also said that he was not aware of the agreement between Mr. Kuci and QMI until February 2008.

Video: http://www.jetanekosove.com/drejtesia/956/Alb