Albania Arrests ex-Officials Over Unbuilt Road



A special investigation into the diplomacy of doing business abroad.

One of Europe’s poorest countries wanted a road, so U.S. mega-contractor Bechtel sold it a $1.3 billion highway, with the backing of a powerful American ambassador. Funny thing is, the highway is barely being used—and the ambassador is now working for Bechtel.

Story by Matthew Brunwasser
Photographs by Matthew Lutton

02 Feb 18

Albania Arrests ex-Officials Over Unbuilt Road

A court in Albania has ordered the arrest of 11 people, including former bosses of the country’s roads authority, as part of an investigation into corruption in rural road construction.

Gjergj Erebara


A tract of road in Gjinar village on July 2014. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN

Two former directors of the Albanian Road Authority are among 11 people arrested by an Elbasan court order over the procurement of a road that was never properly built.

Dashamir Xhika, former director of the Authority between 2013 and 2017, was arrested and accused of abuse of office.

Xhika, 47, is a senior official in the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, the third largest party in Albania and a former junior partner in various governments.

Andi Toma, director of the same authority up to 2013 under the former Democratic Party government, was also arrested, over the procurement to improve the road from Elbasan in central Albania with the village of Gjinar.

Toma was charged before, in 2008, along with then Minister of Transport, Lulzim Basha, now head of the Democratic Party, over procedures related to the so-called Patriotic Highway, a one-billion-euro highway linking Albania with Kosovo.

That case was closed by the High Court in 2009.

The Elbasan-Gjinar road was tendered in 2009 for 500 million lek, about 3.75 million euros, but prosecutors say the work was never done.

The court also authorized the arrests of the contractors and supervisors of the road.

Last December, Infrastructure Minister Damian Gjiknuri filed charges against Xhika over the construction of a highway from Tirana to Elbasan, saying he had caused millions of euros of damages.

Tenders for both roads were issued by the former Democratic Party-LSI coalition government in 2009, but the project faced repeated delays and cost overruns.

The LSI went into opposition after the 2017 election, having been part of coalition governments both with the centre-right Democrats and later with Edi Rama’s Socialists.

Corruption in public procurement in Albania is perceived as endemic, and proper investigations and court sentences concerning such cases are rare.

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