2018’s biggest scandal of money laundering and corruption
The Albanian Road Authority (ARA) announced on Dec. 7 it decided to suspend the construction activity of companies Biba X and DH Albania for a part of the New Ring after the publication of facts that proved the document forgery of American company Dunwell Haberman, which won the tender bid through its DH Albania branch.
On Oct. 8, The Delaware Secretary of State Office confirmed to local media that it also begun investigations to find out whether the Dunwell Haberman company or any of its officials are involved in illegal activities, fraud or forgery.
The tender won by DH Albania, run by 26-year-old Avdiol Dobi, with no previous experience in the construction sector or the management sector, is worth around 20 million euros.
In the Lot 1 contest for the New Ring project DH Albania was registered in Albania in July this year, while further investigations by News 24 TV show ‘The Unexposed’ proved all documents submitted in Delaware are forged.
DH Albania and Biba X – the latter only has seven percent share in this consortium – won with a bid representing nearly 45 percent of the entire investment, or just over 18 million euros (excluding VAT).
Mafia style operation: US offshore forges Delaware Secretary of State certificate
The company committed two major frauds to win the Albanian tender.
For starters, it falsified its foundation act; in Delaware, the company first appeared on record six months ago, on 25 June 2018, while the documents it filed in Albania show as if it existed since June 1998.
The second document allegedly forged is a certificate from the Delaware Secretary of State that this company has no fiscal obligations to the state.
Further investigations conducted by Delaware State authorities proved the company branch in Albania was actually founded in July of this year, just shortly before the bid for the Great Ring construction opened in Albania. The US company also submitted to the National Business Centre financial balances and receipts, also allegedly falsified, as they belong to 2015, 2016 and 2017, before the company was established.
Later on, the same company was revealed to have won another 11.7 million euro government tender for the construction of a 220 kV electric line from Burrel to Peshkopia.
Media investigation further revealed Dobi, from Albania’s Southern Vlora, where the company’s headquarters also were, rented an office for DH Albania in one of Tirana’s most expensive and central business offices after winning both tenders.
High government structures threaten journalist who shed light on scandal
On Dec. 19, it was reported that journalist Ylli Rakipi received threatening messages after making public the forged documents that prove the massive scam surrounding the tender.
“Threats have been received in various forms. They were first done indirectly, via email, and then also straightforwardly. Regarding these threats, the journalist contacted the relevant authorities,” “the Unexposed” portal, run by Rakipi, writes.
Both the country’s President Ilir Meta and the opposition’s Democratic Party strongly condemned the threats.
Meta, who personally met Rakipi, called on all institutions to “investigate this case with the highest responsibility in order to give perpetrators the deserved punishment.”
“The threat towards Ylli Rakipi is not just a threat towards a journalist, but a threat to our entire society. When crime dares to identify a media person while the authors of the scandal itself have been identified, this can only mean one thing: crime feels superior to the state and justice,” the DP statement read.
During a subsequent show, Rakipi also reported that behind the entire scam and the offshore US company is Albanian oligarch Bashkim Ulaj – allegations also cast by other local media such as BIRN and Voice of America.
The facts mounting in favor of these allegations are numerous: only recently, DH Albania, previously registered in Vlora, moved its headquarters in one of the priciest Tirana buildings, the ABA Centre, built by Ulaj.
Bashkim Ulaj: the oligarch behind CNN Albania conducts business with the PM’s blessing
Data provided by BIRN suggested that Albanian authorities had no reason to wait for investigations in the United States to uncover the true owners behind the company Dunwell Haberman, registered in Delaware, United States.
The Dunwell Haberman’s balance sheet submitted to the Business Registration Centre was translated by Shenda Kruja, who does not appear in the list of translators approved by the Ministry of Justice.
Social network search showed Kruja works at Ulaj’s company GENER 2.
Ulaj, Albanian developer and businessman is not a stranger to these accusations. Having appeared in the list of Albania’s top ten richest in 2015, local media has reported the businessman has had good relations with the government, irregardless the party in power.
With mounting proof, gov’t seeks to assign blame elsewhere
The government has so far not addressed any of the accusations, preferring to assign the blame for the scandal to low-rank officials and others involved.
Minister of Energy and Industry Damian Gjiknuri said he considers the fraud and forgeries of Dunwell Haberman and its branch DH Albania as criminal offenses, and said he is open that his work as minister be investigated any time.
As the opposition heavily accused the government of backing up the offshore company and its illegal activity in Albania for its own gain, Gjiknuri said only the US authorities’ penal investigation will help solve the issue.
“I declare with full responsibility that I have not had any connection and I have no knowledge of the company’s criminal activity. I’m open to investigation. The US has launched a criminal investigation, we await the results of US investigations to know who are the real shareholders and their ties to other people. The Great Ring project will continue,the other two parts of the road are being constructed,” the minister said.