Albanian opposition leader Sali Berisha and his son-in-law, Jamarber Malltezi, are under investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering, Berisha confirmed on October 23.
The case concerns a land deal in the Albanian capital Tirana. Berisha denied the allegations, describing them as unfounded political accusations made by the current prime minister, Edi Rama.
Berisha, 79, has been prohibited from leaving the country under orders from the Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK). Malltezi was arrested on the same charges at Tirana International Airport.
SPAK claimed in a statement posted on its website that Malltezi exploited Berisha's position as prime minister to privatise the former Partizani sports complex, which was then sold at a reduced price to Malltezi.
Three years ago, Interior Minister Taulant Balla, the former head of the governing Socialist Party’s parliamentary group, submitted allegations against Malltezi and Berisha to the prosecutor’s office.
Berisha responded to the charges at a press conference on October 23, saying that another former prime minister, Fatos Nano of the Socialist Party, had been responsible for starting the privatisation.
Berisha served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005-2013 and as president from 1992-1997.
He stepped down as leader of the opposition Democratic Party in 2013, after it lost power to Rama’s Socialists, but announced his intention to return as party leader following the party’s latest general election defeat in 2021. Since then, the party has been torn apart by political infighting between Berisha and his rivals.
In May 2021, the US government banned Berisha and his immediate family from entering the country due to their alleged involvement in corruption. At the time, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Berisha of engaging in corrupt practices during his tenure as prime minister.