UK court turns down Albanian request for Leyton Orient owner's extradition

By bne IntelliNews July 9, 2016

A British court ruled on July 8 that Italian businessman and president of British football club Leyton Orient, Francesco Becchetti, will not extradited to Albania where he has been accused of fraud, forgery and money laundering.

Becchetti faced extradition from the UK after Albanian prosectors issued an arrest warrant in June 2015 over his suspected involvement in a money laundering scheme related to a failed hydropower project in the country. Becchetti, who was also an owner of the Agon television broadcaster in Albania, denied the accusations.

“District judge Nina Tempia from London's Westminster Magistrates' Court, said she was staying the case against Mr Becchetti, 48, and his business associate Mauro De Renzis, 61, who was charged with the same offences,” UK-based sport TV channel BT Sport said.

Lawyers for the Albanian government said immediately they intend to appeal the ruling and have two weeks to do so, the article said.

Becchetti’s lawyers said earlier that the Italian businessman's case was "politically motivated".

In March 2016, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunal instructed Albania to suspend extradition and criminal proceedings against Becchetti.

The tribunal also decided that Albania should suspend criminal proceedings against all claimants in the case. Both sides come to an agreement on preservation of their assets which had been seized in Albanian during the arbitration.

In a “unanimous and historic order” issued on March 4 in Washington, following an arbitration hearing before the ICSID, the Albanian government was asked to “take all actions necessary to suspend” the extradition proceedings in London against Becchetti and Agon manager Mauro De Renzis, Leyton Orient said in a statement on its website on March 7.

The investigation into Becchetti was launched in 2014. Investigators suspect that between 2007 and 2013 Becchetti ran a money laundering scheme which generated profits of several million euros. One of his Albanian firms currently has debts of some ALL770mn (€5.6mn) in unpaid taxes.

Becchetti’s mother Liliana Condomitti and another person, Stefania Grigilon were also named in the case.

According to Albanian prosecutors, the money laundering scheme was organised by Becchetti in collaboration with Condomitti, with both involved in a concession-contractor relationship in the construction of the Kalivaci hydropower project in Albania, which was never completed.

In June 2015, the prosecutor's office in Tirana ordered the confiscation of Becchetti’s assets, which included 60% of shares in several companies in Albania controlled by him. Becchetti’s bank accounts were also frozen in Albania, the prosecutor’s office said in June.

Becchetti said at the time the charges were “groundless” and also accused the Albanian authorities of shutting down Agon TV after it broadcast stories critical of the government including an expose of the use of fake identity cards in advance of the June 2015 local elections.

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