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Albania: Home to the New ‘Swiss Account’?  by Bridget Ryder

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Albania: Home to the New ‘Swiss Account’? 

The American Chamber of Commerce in Albania has come out strongly against proposed legislation that would allow foreign nationals to deposit up to €2 million in local banks, no questions asked.

The private, not-for-profit Chamber from the United States is not the first to raise the alarm on Albania’s proposed fiscal amnesty law. 

Euractiv reports that a previous version of the draft was condemned by the EU and the International Monetary Fund last year, but the Socialist-led government has continued to push the legislation forward. 

Earlier in July, the European Union’s delegation in Albania also expressed its concerns about the latest draft law, according to Balkan Insight, citing essentially the same reasons as the American Chamber of Commerce: damage to the country’s reputation, because it would allow Albania to become a deposit for illegal money. 

The proposed law would not require any verification that foreigners had paid required taxes on the cash they deposit in the counties where they reside, effectively giving legal immunity to tax evaders and criminals. In exchange, a 5% to 10% tax on foreigners’ bank holdings would be paid to Albania. The fiscal amnesty would also apply to Albanian nationals. 

“Our assessment is that the bill does not provide a sufficient guarantee that individuals involved in criminal activity will be exempted from amnesty. If passed, the legislation would curb efforts to improve the business and investment climate, rewarding unfair competition. We also estimate that Albania’s position in international monitoring programs on money laundering would be at risk and, as a result, the country’s reputation would be weakened,” the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania stated in a Facebook post

Balkan Insight also reports that the Albanian government had invited businesses to a consultation on the draft with Prime Minister Edi Rama, stated in a Facebook post Tirana on July 15th. The invitation reads:

Under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama, the Ministry of Finance and Economy is pleased to have you participate in a public consultative meeting within the framework of the approval of the draft law ‘On Fiscal and Criminal Amnesty for the Subjects of the Voluntary Declaration of Wealth’ … Given the importance that this draft law represents for the economic development of the country, we would greatly appreciate your presence.

Albania is currently bidding for EU membership, although the country is notorious as a hub of organised crime networks that operate throughout Europe. 

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.