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Albanian PM threatens to quit international arbitration body

Balkan Insight | 7 April 2023

Albanian PM threatens to quit international arbitration body

by Gjergj Erebara

ime Minister Edi Rama told a press conference on Friday that a decision by International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, ICSID to award Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti around 110 million euros in compensation was “scandalous” and said Albania might quit the body in response.

Rama complained that “a criminal who has been sentenced to 17 years in jail for fraud against the Albanian state managed to succeed with a court with which we will start to cause problems, starting from the next week”.

“We are analysing the possibility of getting out of its jurisdiction because what happened is scandalous,” he added.

Businessman Becchetti claimed in 2015 that the government of Albania, led by Rama, unlawfully seized his assets, including a TV station, because his media outlet was critical of the authorities.

Becchetti was sentenced to 17 years in prison in absentia by a court in Tirana in February 2022 for money laundering in relation to a failed hydroelectric scheme. The British authorities refused to extradite him to Albania.

Becchetti has filed several claims to ICSID against Albania, most of which were dismissed as baseless, apart from this one.

ICSID deals with claims in a very secretive matter and the circumstances of the decision and the arguments on which it was based have not been made public.

However, opposition politicians in Albania claim Rama unlawfully prosecuted Becchetti in order to gain control over the country’s media landscape.

Following Rama’s announcement that he might withdraw Albania from ICSID’s jurisdiction, the opposition’s de facto leader Sali Berisha criticised it as tantamount to shunning international financial organisations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“I condemn his statement in the strongest terms,” Berisha said.

Several foreign companies have filed claims to ICSID against Albania, with mixed results. Some have been dismissed as baseless but others have led to hefty compensation awards. The Ministry of Finance has earmarked some 156 million euros to make the payouts, including the one to Becchetti.

ICSID is part of the World Bank Group and is based on a 1966 UN convention on the settlement of investment disputes between states and nationals of other States. The convention has been ratified by some 140 countries, including Albania.

 source: Balkan Insight