The scandal with the army's properties deepens, Kastrati seizes the former mine depot in Porto Romano

2023-03-25 10:21:56Fokus SHKRUAR NGA REDAKSIA VOX
Shefqet Kastrati

In the heart of the Adriatic coast there are 52 thousand square meters of land owned by the Navy.

In the area of ??Porto Romano in Durrës, next to the Commercial Port of the concessionary company Porti MBM, owned by the "Kastrati Group", there were several buildings that served as warehouses for naval mines years ago.

" Before 1965, we are talking about the First World War, it was a concentration camp for the Italians, and there was even a monument to the concentration camp, but the monument is no longer there, it has been removed", says the former head of the Navy . Artur Meçollari.

Today, most of them are gone. Others can barely stand.

Since August 2020, the port concession company has started its expansion on this property.

The property belongs to the army and without a permit or contract that is approved by Decision of the Council of Ministers, no one can touch a single blade of grass.

" Here we are on the south-western boundary of the property and the other boundaries are the ancient wall which is the northern boundary and the motorway which is the eastern boundary. These are the borders, but within them they are carrying out works, the buildings have been damaged, a part has been flattened, the hill inside property 219, which is owned by the Navy, has been excavated", explains Artur Meçollari.

Kronos also asked the Ministry of Defense what is the status of this property and who is its owner. The Ministry confirmed that the property is owned by the Navy.

 " Property no. 219 "Former Naval Mine Depot" Porto Romano is a property under the administration of the Naval Force, which also has a certificate of ownership for this property ," said the Ministry of Defense in response to the request for information.

If the land is owned by the Navy then no one can carry out work without having an approved contract. No such contract has been published in the Official Gazette, and this is also confirmed by the Ministry of Defense in response to the request for information addressed to it by Kronos.

" Currently, the Navy does not have any lease/share contract of this property and also does not have any act by which the transfer of this state property to any private entity was made. We do not have any act that any private entity has acquired the right to develop this property ", says the Ministry of Defense.

The rules and laws are not taken into account by the port concession company, which needs the land to expand its activity. Part of the property is being used as a truck parking terminal, while half of the former naval mine depot buildings have been demolished.

Even in this case, the law, which requires permission from the local authority for demolition, has not been respected, otherwise it is considered "unauthorized construction", "unauthorized construction" is also considered throwing asphalt on a good part of the land to be used as parking space for trucks. 

The question that everyone asks, including former head of the Naval Force Artur Meçollari, is how is it possible that all this happened for months without anyone seeing it?

" I have only had one story during my duty with this property, it must have been May of 2020 when, while building a road, the company that administers the port entered the part of the property 219 and I immediately notified the Military Police, the State Police, I myself came to place, I also met the administrator of the property and the condition of the property was restored as it was ", says Meçollari.

Kronos asked the Ministry of Defense if it is known that works are being carried out on this property by private operators, but in the letter sent this answer was "forgotten".

Kronos sent him another request where he once again reminded him of the question: Are works currently being carried out on this property by private operators? But the answer has not yet come.

An official at the Ministry of Defense said on condition of anonymity that 3 criminal charges have been filed so far for the illegal use of property. The first was filed by the Navy at the Durres Prosecutor's Office on August 13, 2020, and two other reports were filed on February 9, 2022 and November 17, 2022.

Despite the reports made, it remains unclear and unanswered how it is possible that the land has not been surrounded and not taken up for protection by the Military and State Police.

Property number 219, the former Naval Mine Depot with an area of ??5.2 hectares, is located outside the Army Lands Distribution Plan and may be given for private development. Although the law allows giving, no one has implemented it.

" Format can be leased, leased or purchased. These are 3 forms that can be given, but until 2020, there was no contract for renting or selling ", adds Meçollari.

The Ministry of Defense has not opened an auction for its privatization, the company has not made a request for its use, while the fact happened: 52 thousand square meters with a market value of 5 million euros were taken by the concessionaire of the Port.

In this whole story there is a winner: that is the private person and a loser: the state, which has lost the land or the income that could be derived from one of its assets. The case is more flagrant and differs from the naval base of Saranda, where one of the companies that signed a lease contract "Kastrati Group" followed the legal procedure and took over the administration of the Port of Limion with a Decision of the Council of Ministers. In the case of Porto Romano, the company Kastrati has no permit.

The scandal deepens more as it shows how the entire chain of authorities that administer the army's properties has failed, from the Navy itself, to the highest link, the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense. The analogous case is that of the Shengjin base, where after a private individual started the construction of an object, the Military Police decided to take the property into custody, blocking the works.

The former mine depot at Porto Romano is a Ministry of Defense property, which came out of the proliferation plan in 2010. With this status, the property must be guarded and administered by the Navy, but not with 24-hour personnel. The procedure is as follows: every day a soldier must check and report if the property has been violated or damaged or if someone is using it.

As the footage released by Kronos shows, there is nothing resembling a military property there anymore. The warehouse buildings and the outer fence do not exist.

" I remember that at that time an information came into my hands, without a name and without documentation, it was an expression of a documentation that there is a claimant for the ownership of someone who has a decision for the return of the property, but the property has not been returned and it is in the army property inventory .” says the former Navy Commander.

Images taken by Google Earth over the years show that works by a private firm have started as early as August 2020. A few months ago, the land was green and the warehouses were there. Today we have this picture: earth excavations, half of the warehouses are no longer there and asphalt on the side of the road which is used for truck parking. All property in the function of the private company.

In an official request for comment on whether there are references to the police or the prosecutor for the elements of the criminal offense of occupying and interfering with the property of the army, no one responded. Neither the Ministry of Defense nor Counter Admiral Adnand Agastra, acting commander of the Naval Force. However, the Ministry of Defense admits that it knows both the law and the procedure:

" This property is part of the inventory of state immovable properties under the administration of the Navy and in any case that it is determined that violations of any kind can be committed on this property, by third parties, the Navy takes all the necessary legal actions in support of the legal and by-laws adopted for this purpose ." says the Ministry of Defense.

MBM Port Company has been operating in the Porto Romano area for years, initially with a concession contract for the construction of a port structure for hydrocarbon materials. In 2020, the Parliament of Albania changed the contract allowing other commercial activities in the processing of all goods. Contacted by Kronos, representatives of the Kastrati Group company that owns the Porti MBM firm did not respond to a request for comment.