Embattled former Albanian official hires lobbyists to reverse US ban
A former Albanian government official who is banned from entering the United States has hired two American lobbyists in an effort to get the ban repealed. Adriatik Llalla, the former Albanian prosecutor general, and his family were banned by the Department of State in February 2018.
Llalla served as the prosecutor general of Albania, which is akin to the attorney general in the United States, from 2012 to 2017 and sparred with then-U.S. Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu. Lu criticized Llalla for opposing a massive justice system reform program implemented by the Albanian government and supported by the U.S. It was reported in spring 2018 that Llalla was seeking asylum in Germany.
Section 7031(c) of the 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act allows the Secretary of State to block individuals involved in significant corruption and/or gross human rights violations from entering the U.S., along with their families. According to a State Department official, the Secretary of State has “credible information” that Llalla met the standard of significant corruption while he was prosecutor general.
Besar Likmeta, a journalist at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and editor at BIRN Albania who has reported on Llalla, explained that the former prosecutor general is under investigation by Albanian authorities for money laundering. In April 2018, Lindita Cela from BIRN published an article detailing the investigation into Llalla’s real estate dealings which involved working with a convicted murderer, a contractor to the prosecutor’s office and others.
The article detailed how Llalla used a series of transactions over 10 years to buy 25,000 square meters of farmland valued at over one million euros for just 126,000 euros. In the article, Llalla denied any improprieties in his dealings, claiming he “has no reason to worry.” According to the BIRN report, Llalla is the first-ever Albanian official banned from entering the U.S.
In a recent lobbying filing, Llalla hired Michael Tremonte and Michael Gibaldi of the New York-based Sher Tremonte litigation firm. Tremonte, one of the partners of the firm, once served as the Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and has a background in white collar crime defense. Gibaldi is also experienced in white-collar cases. According to the disclosure form, the lawyers were hired to push for a reversal on the ban of Llalla.
The filing notes that an affiliated organization, which contributes monetarily to the registrant’s lobbying effort and participates in the lobbying, is Lita Brothers Construction, a Bergenfield, N.J. company.
Little information is available about Lita Brothers Construction. The organization doesn’t have a website and the phone number listed by Google for the company is out of service. Another phone number associated with the business’ location wasn’t answered and didn’t have a voicemail box.
The owner of the business is listed as Bedri Lita, who also incorporated Lita Brothers Pizza LLC and Lita Brothers Chimney & Roofing LLC which share the same address — a suburban home in Cliffside Park, N.J. There is also a Lita Brothers Construction registered as a business in Albania. Likmeta said the two companies are likely related — one Lita brother lives in New Jersey and the other lives in Albania.
According to translated registration documents, the Albanian Lita Brothers company claims to be involved in a variety of business efforts, including import/export, wholesale and retail of industrial and agricultural goods, construction, production and trade of medicinal herbs, real estate and more. Gazmend Lita and Korab Lita are listed on the Albanian registration of the company.
Neither Tremonte nor Gibaldi returned a request for comment.
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