LONDON, July 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --
The Government of Albania has abandoned its efforts to have the UK-based Italian businessman, Francesco Becchetti, extradited.
The decision announced at Westminster Magistrates Court today (July 20, 2016) formally ends more than a year of strong pressure for Mr Becchetti - the owner and president of Leyton Orient Football Club - and his employees in Albania.
Earlier this month, at a hearing in Westminster Magistrates Court, the court found that a document submitted by the Albanian Government in support of its extradition case was "totally misleading".
The document made a number of false statements about Albanian law, including that the extradition request could not be withdrawn, and even that the Minister would face "sanctions" in Albania if he withdrew the request.
The judge, District Judge Nina Tempia, found these claims to be untrue. She found that there had been an attempted "manipulation and usurpation" of the court's process by the Albanian Government and ruled that the proceedings against Mr Becchetti be stayed.
The Albanian Government initially stated it would appeal the decision to stay proceedings. However, it announced today no appeal would be lodged.
Speaking after the Albanian Government's decision was announced in court, Mr Becchetti said: "Finally after more than a year, and after a lengthy legal fight against the unwarranted persecution of myself and my employees, we have the first just decision made by the Albanian Government. Not to appeal the court's decision and to end this politically motivated action, was the minimum we expected. There should now be immediate end to all other proceedings against me in Albania that remain unresolved."
Julian Knowles QC, who represented Mr Becchetti and Mr De Renzis, (instructed by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, law firm) said the document's contents meant that, "Albania had sought to lie to this court."
For editors: background details of the case follows:
Background of the case:
In over a year of hard-fought legal argument against the Albanian authorities, Mr Becchetti, 49, and his lawyers, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, argued that charges brought against himself and Mr De Renzis, along with efforts to have them both extradited, were politically motivated.
Mr Becchetti's significant business interests in Albania were a key factor behind the legal efforts effectively directed by the Socialist Government of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Shortly after Mr Rama was elected in 2013, investigations were launched into Mr Becchetti's companies, along with his financial and tax affairs.
The Agon television channel in Albania, owned by Mr Becchetti, was an open critic of the Rama government. Agon's main investigations programme examined potential fraud and political corruption inside Albania. A scandal involving identity cards, which allowed people to vote multiple times, was exposed. After a campaign of harassment against journalists working for the channel, Agon was closed down by the Albanian Government in 2015. Mr Becchetti, at the time of the closure, said the government "are aiming to silence Agon."
Other Becchetti businesses in Albania include the construction of a dam and hydro-electric power station (the Kalivac Project).
After Mr Rama's government was elected in 2013, the Albanian authorities began a series of investigations into Becchetti-owned businesses. Seizure and security orders followed which froze the financial assets of five Becchetti companies.
In June last year Mr Becchetti instituted an arbitration claim at the World Bank's dispute resolution service in Washington DC - the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In March this year an ICSID tribunal ruled against the Government of Albania, ordering Mr Rama's government to suspend the criminal proceedings and the extradition process against Mr Becchetti and Mr De Renzis.
Although the tribunal's findings were binding on Albania, the document subsequently sent to the Home Office in April 2016 , stated the Albanian justice minister could not comply with the ICSID order.
SOURCE The Office of Francesco Becchetti