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Politics

Albanian Mayor Accused by Jailed Ethnic Greek Winner Arrested

TIRANA, Albania -The ineligible mayor of the Albanian seaside town of Himare – who the jailed winner, ethnic Greek Fredi Beleri said created fake documents for property development, was arrested on corruption charges.

The Special Court Against Corruption and Organized Crime, which handles cases involving senior officials, ordered the detention of Jorgo Goro, on charges of abuse of power for allegedly making the papers to obtain government land for a former Member of Parliament who wanted to build a private tourist resort there.

Beleri was convicted of buying votes which he said was a ruse by the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama to benefit friends who wanted to develop the town as Albania’s seaside is rising in tourist interest because it’s so cheap.

Beleri was sentenced to two years in jail despite the protests of Greece, which said it would block Albania’s hopes of joining the European Union although Beleri is said to believe pressure from the bloc and the United States will overturn that.

Another person was arrested and three other officials with the Himare and Vlore municipalities were placed under house arrest. The five face up to seven years in prison if found guilty. Neither Goro nor his lawyer said anything initially.

The site said to be eyed for development by the former lawmaker was 5,512 square meters (6,592 square yards) for a resort to attract tourists, Himarie being a main destination for foreign visitors, giving Greece competition.

It has also long been home for the ethnic Greek minority in Albania, to which both Beleri and Goro belong. Some 10 million tourists visited the tiny Western Balkan country last year, their spending accounting for about a fifth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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