Albania: PM Dismisses Claim Of Illegal Donation To Obama


By Gjergj Erebara

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s spokesperson Endri Fuga told BIRN on Tuesday that he did not think it was necessary to comment on the allegation that the Albanian premier was behind an illegal foreign donation of $80,000 to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

“This is an old story and pretty much a clear one as regards the prime minister and we do not have any interest in dealing with who said what,” Fuga said, describing the claim as “vilification”.

US citizen William Argeros was sentenced on Monday to four months in prison for involvement in facilitating an illegal contribution from a foreigner to a fundraising committee for Barack Obama in 2012.

His defence lawyer told court the court that the foreigner was Albanian Prime Minister Rama, “who wanted a photo taken with Obama”, the Associated Press reported.

Rama denied the allegation when the charges in the case became public in 2016.

Bilal Shehu, an American-Albanian limousine driver, has also been convicted of involvement in the illegal payment.

In his plea deal, Argeros admitted to teaming up with Shehu to receive $80,000 “from a foreign source” and route it to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee supporting Obama’s re-election bid and other Democratic candidates. Foreigners are barred under US law from donating to US federal candidates.

In 2016, prosecutors in Tirana started a preliminary investigation into the case but have not made any announcements yet about their progress, if any.

In the past, Albanian politicians have faced various allegations of buying access to top politicians in Washington via US lobbyists.

The leader of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, is currently under investigation over money-laundering claims in relation to more than $825,000 that was paid to a US lobbyist but not declared as expenditure to Albania’s Central Electoral Commission.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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