Europe

Albania

Land of the Pyramids

The fallout from the 1997 pyramid-scheme scandals—Albania’s biggest fraud case, which led to deadly rioting and widespread chaos—continues to have an impact on Albanian politics. The fraudulent pyramid investment scheme is believed to have yielded $13.3 million in illegal proceeds, which, according to the independent Albanian Daily News (Dec. 7), have now been located in an Ioannina bank account in Greece.

In December a court in the national capital of Tirana released Vehbi Alimucaj, the head of the largest pyramid scheme, from prison pending the outcome of his trial, which began in November.

The move seemed to outrage everybody. Zëri i Popullit (Dec. 3), the daily of the ruling Socialist Party, said the release “is a continuation of similar rulings by the same judges, who once again have publicly declared themselves parties to crime.’’

But Edi Lesi, in the independent Koha Jonë (Dec. 3), blamed Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani. “It is up to him to fire the corrupt judges and prosecutors,’’ writes Lesi.

A report in Zëri i Popullit (Dec. 7) quotes two former aides of former President Sali Berisha accusing Berisha of having “secret links’’ to the pyramid schemes. And Besim Vorpsi charges in the centrist  Shekulli (Dec. 4) that “neither the party in power nor the opposition wants the truth to be revealed’’ about the pyramids. So far, only one person has been convicted in connection with the scandals.

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