September 05th 2012 01:30:24 AM
Murder and Corruption in Kosovo? You Don’t Say! It Still Won’t Keep Maddie Albright from Getting her War-begotten GoodiesPosted by Julia Gorin
No sooner did I blog about the multiple-stabbing “suicide” of Kosovo’s privatization czar, and no sooner did I read that “Albright Capital Management has bid for the privatisation of Kosovo’s most profitable company PTK” (note: “The telecoms infrastructure that PTK today owns was initially funded by the citizens of all of Serbia before it was seized without any reparations”), than I was forwarded the following update:
Kosovo is preparing to sell a majority stake in its state-owned post and telecom company PTK, a deal that could yield as much as €600 million ($753 million) for Europe’s newest and poorest country.
The bidding, set to begin next month [September], has attracted interest from European and Turkish phone operators, as well as from an investment company headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was a major backer of Kosovo in its war against Serbia. Already, however, the sale process has been clouded by corruption allegations, legal challenges, and the death of the state privatization agency’s chief, Dino Asanaj. In June, his body was found in his apartment in Kosovo’s capital city of Pristina, with 11 stab wounds. Authorities say he committed suicide.
Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, is an economic basket case. National unemployment stands near 45 percent, and per capita income hovers around $7,000, the lowest in Europe. The International Monetary Fund this year approved a $134 million bailout for the country and urged its government to raise more money by selling a stake in profitable PTK. “We expect big impacts on the economy and the telecommunication sector on the one hand, and at the same time we want to signal foreign investors that Kosovo is an attractive country to invest and do business [in],” Economy Minister Besim Beqaj says.
The government has tried, and failed, to privatize PTK before. An attempt launched in 2010 fell apart last year following a corruption investigation at the company. And earlier asset sales were tainted by accusations of wrongdoing: At the time of his death, privatization chief Asanaj faced investigation for allegedly demanding a bribe from purchasers of a privatized hotel property.
Kosovo authorities have said the stress of investigation led Asanaj to kill himself. That finding is “unbelievable,” says William Bartlett, a senior researcher at the London School of Economics who has advised the European Commission and international organizations in Kosovo. “Kosovo is a lawless place,” Bartlett says.
Serbia is contesting the PTK privatization, arguing that former Serbian employees of the company have a legal claim on its assets. On Aug. 23, Serbia announced it would file lawsuits before international courts to block investors from buying stakes in the company. “As in any asset sale, rights of former and current employees also must be respected,” including claims by Serbs who fled Kosovo during the war that began in 1999, says Aleksandar Vulin, the head of Serbia’s agency for Kosovo affairs. “The move should serve as a warning to foreign investors who want to acquire assets there.”
Despite the controversy, Kosovo’s government announced on Aug. 18 that it had approved five groups as potential bidders on the PTK stake. They include a consortium of Portugal Telecom and Albright Capital Management, a Washington (D.C.) investment firm started by the former secretary of state who urged NATO action against Serbian troops during the Kosovo conflict. Nelson Oliveira, Albright Capital’s general counsel, says the group plans to “review due diligence materials and possibly prepare a bid” but declined further comment. Consortia that include British Telecom Poland and Turkish mobile operator Turkcell have also been approved as potential bidders.
On a more general note about the profiteers of Serb-killing:
Numerous international officials who were on temporary duty in Kosovo as representatives of the EU or UN have returned into Serbian southern province and developed their private businesses there…‘Albright Group’ has been already behind one of the leading mobile operators in the territory of Kosovo/Metohija ‘Ipko Net’. Now she would…buy the post office and telecommunications of Kosovo.
…Wesley Clark who is leading ‘Envidity’, a Canadian energy corporation, has requested from Pristina authorities a license for research of coal reserves in the province that would be used for production of synthetic naphtha.
…The first KFOR commander, British General Michael Jackson returned to Kosovo after twelve years but as a representative of the ‘Core Management Group’. Every year the province is also visited by former OSCE mission verification chief William Walker, the man who faked a massacre in Kosovo that was used as [justification] to start air strikes on Yugoslavia.
‘American diplomats, present and former, are undisputable in Kosovo. They feel protected in [a] physical and legal sense in a territory that legally has not been defined yet. That is why it is not in their interest that law and order is introduced in Kosovo’, Oliver Ivanovic, until recently state secretary at the Ministry for KiM says for Blic.
Another profitable business for foreign officials is a job of an advisor. Former UNMIK chief Steven Schook was Hashim Thaci’s advisor. Then he was advising Ramus Haradinaj’s party for huge compensation, of course. His colleague Jack Kowey, too is highly positioned at the ‘Bethel’, a company constructing high[ways] in Kosovo and Albania.
Political analyst Dusan Janjic claims that resources in Kosovo are being given to foreign nationals for almost nothing due to unsettled property relations.
The one who started getting profit even during [the] mandate [of] course was American Ambassador to Pristina Christopher Dell. As Blic reported, Dell was involved in export of slag from Trepca Mine. By this deal and giving part of the cake to Hashim Thaci’s people, he actually was making possible [for] Madeleine Albright’s daughter company a profitable business.