US designates former Albania president for corruption
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The US State Department Wednesday banned a former Albanian political powerbroker from travelling to the United States because of his links to "significant corruption."
"I am announcing the public designation of Sali Berisha, a former President of Albania, former Prime Minister of Albania, and former Member of Parliament of Albania, due to his involvement in significant corruption," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Blinken also designated Berisha's wife and two children. "These individuals are ineligible to travel to the United States," he said.
State Department designations are used to formally identify individuals the US government deems corrupt or human rights violators and ban them and their immediate family members from entering the United States.
In his statement, Blinken accused Berisha of "misappropriating public funds and interfering with public processes" to the financial benefit of his family and allies.
Blinken also said Berisha went to great lengths to protect himself, his family and his allies "at the expense of independent investigations, anticorruption efforts, and accountability measures."
Berisha, a veteran statesman who ruled Albania for eight years, finally lost power in August 2013 when the country's left-wing coalition claimed an electoral victory.
He initially conceded defeat three days after the June 26, 2013 poll, the first time an election outcome had not been challenged since the fall of communism in the early 1990s.
But Berisha later disputed the results and demanded a recount in two districts, delaying the announcement of the official results for a month.
Watchdogs regularly rank Albania as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, and it is also one of the continent's poorest.