Tirana, Albania , Apr 23 (Tirana Echo) – The shutting down of Gulf Oil gas stations across the country which ran a fraud scheme in its last days has exposed links to Georgian oligarchs who may have laundered dirty money in Albania. Prosecutors have issued a search warrant for the company’s managing team.
According to Albania’s Top Channel TV, Gulf Oil can be traced back to Alexandre Gogokhia, the former director of the Lottery Company, relative of Tbilisi’s former Mayor Gigi Ugulava and business partner of ex-Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili. The three have previously been accused by Georgian authorities of running a criminal group involved in money laundering.
According to documents revealed by Top Channel, Gogokhia owns ‘Universal Energy Group’ which in turn owns ‘Sun Petroleum’ and ‘Gulf Oil International’ in Albania. Meanwhile papers reveal that former Georgian Defence Minister Kezerashvili was previously arrested in France as he planned to travel to Albania while Albania’s prosecutors are currently looking for Gulf’s manager Albano Aliko and its Georgian administrator Irakli Svanidze.
Aliko and Svanidze are both suspected of running a deceitful illegal scheme of selling hundreds of thousands of petrol vouchers days before halting the company’s business activity, causing a damage of around €5m (Euros).
Some companies have reportedly purchased over 3000 liters of gas and have been left with worthless vouchers in their possession. Prosecutors are investigating the company’s managing team on running a fraud scheme, days before closure.
Albania is under pressure by the European Union and the United States to clean up its massive corruption and money laundering activities as the small Balkan country bids to join the EU.
The European Council is expected to decide on opening accession talks with the country during its June meeting in Brussels.
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