Tirana, March 13 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s main opposition group the Democratic Party (DP) is under fire after a US based magazine exposed possible ties to a Russian funded lobbying contract in the United States in 2017.
On Tuesday, Mother Jones published a lengthy investigation about a mysterious Russian-linked firm that hired a former Trump campaign aide named Nick Muzin to work in the United States to help the right-wing Democratic Party of Albania during the country’s 2017 parliamentary elections.
The story zeroed in on Biniatta Trade, a Scotland-based shell company that paid Muzin $150,000, and perhaps more, to help the DPA and its chairman, Lulzim Basha. According to corporate filings in the United Kingdom, the two Belize-based shell companies that created Biniatta Trade were linked to other firms controlled by Russian nationals. The investigation alledges that russian funded lobbying contract landed a photo opportunity for DP leader Lulzim Basha with US President Donald Trump during the 2017 Albanian elections campaign.
Following the report, Albania’s ruling Socialist Party Parliamentary Group chief Taulant Balla accused DP leader Lulzim Basha of using Russian money to use the White House’s influence on Albania’s general elections.
Balla said “there were grounded suspicions that even the three-month tent protest staged by the DP on the main boulevard in front of the Prime Minister’s Office last year was paid with Russian money”, calling on Albania’s Prosecutors to investigate the affair.
DP Chair Lulzim Basha immediately responded that the SP’s kicking and screaming in regards to the controversy generated by the above-mentioned article was meant to divert the general public’s attention from two alleged plans of Rama and his cohorts: the total undermining of the investigation into the affair related to the seizure of 613 kilos of cocaine and the acquittal of SP MP Saimir Tahiri from the charges of having collaborated with the Habilaj drug trafficking gang.
However, during a televised interview last night at News24, Prime Minister Edi Rama urged opposition leader Lulzim Basha to be transparent over the alleged affair, adding the evidence published so far showed that “deep-pocketed” Russians had paid for financial transactions whose main beneficiaries were the Democratic Party.
Basha’s Democratic Party also accused the ruling Socialist Party of sponsoring Mother Jones’ article, which it called “second-hand media,” to “forge facts.”
In a statement to the independent Albanian newspaper, Shqiptarja, Mother Jones said, “The charge that Mother Jones received payment from Edi Rama for publishing this article is absurd. We never accept payment for an investigation under any circumstances and certainly did not in this case.”
While the Democratic Party is under fire over a US based lobbying contract, its leader Mr. Basha could face charges on Albanian soil over undeclared financial expenditure.
On Monday, the Central Elections Commission of Albania (CEC) called on political parties to submit their 2017 financial reports by 31 March. The announcement was made on Monday by CEC spokesperson Drilona Hoxhaj, who added the law said political parties must submit their financial reports annually in accordance with the relevant rules and with detailed information on the resources of their financial funding.
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