Albanian main opposition Democratic Party said on July 4 it has filed criminal charges against Prime Minister Edi Rama for allegedly illegally paying $80,000 to the re-election campaign of US President Barack Obama in 2012.
Rama, who was in opposition at the time, was photographed with Obama during a campaign event in San Francisco. The picture, which was allegedly used by Rama to show he had a good relationship with Obama, helped him to defeat the Democratic Party and win the general election in 2013.
Rama’s ruling Socialist Party and the Democratic Party have a highly acrimonious relationship and accusations of corruption from both sides are frequent.
Reuters reported on June 30 that a US Republican congressman had called in 2013 for investigations into the purchase of two $40,000 tickets for the fundraiser in San Francisco by the family of Bilal Shehu, a US citizen of Albanian origin, and that one of those tickets had been used by Rama.
The issue was reopened after Shehu admitted that he violated US laws, claiming that in September 2012 he helped two foreign nationals provide a contribution of $80,000 for Obama campaign. In return, they were allowed to participate in the event with the US president on October 8, 2012. The money was allegedly sent from Albania. One of them, according to local media, was Rama.
“We filed criminal charges against Prime Minister based on facts which clearly indicate that Edi Rama has committed at least three offences: fraud, concealment and money laundering, exercising influence illegally and directly benefiting from that,” the deputy head of the Democratic Party’s parliamentary group Eduard Halimi said in a statement.
Rama's office immediately replied in a statement that he has no connection with any illegal funding and that the only "crime" he committed was to have a photograph with Obama taken in 2012 "at a time when the Albanian government and its head closed all doors and Albania's international relations suffered negative image due to the bad governance".
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