Trump’s son-in-law plans major investment in Sazan, Albanian gov’t confirms

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 16, 2024 12:28

Trump’s son-in-law plans major investment in Sazan, Albanian gov’t confirms

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  • Albania recently changed its law on protected areas despite protests from environmentalists, a move that would make investment into Zvernec possible, as the area is near the Narta Lagoon, an environmentally protected zone. 

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TIRANA, March 16, 2024 - U.S.-based company Affinity Partners, led by Jared Kushner, the influential son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, aims to undertake two major tourism projects in Albania, along with another in Belgrade, with a combined value that could exceed $1 billion, he said on social media after reporting by two large U.S. media.

Kushner's Miami-based investment company plans to transform Sazan Island, formerly used solely as a military base, into a luxury eco-resort under the opulent Aman brand, according to articles published on Bloomberg News and the New York Times.

"Sazan Island is one of the most pristine and unique coastal lines I have ever seen anywhere in the world," Kushner said. 

Affinity also seeks to develop the Zvernec area near Vlora, planning to build several resorts with around 10,000 hotel rooms and villas.

-Law changes for development-

Albania recently changed its law on protected areas despite protests from environmentalists, a move that would make investment into Zvernec possible, as the area is near the Narta Lagoon, a protected zone already under environmental controversy as Albania is building the massive Vlora International Airport nearby in an effort to further develop tourism to the area. 

Kushner explained that through his associate Richard Grenell, who served as U.S. ambassador to Germany during the Trump administration and as a mediator in the Serbia-Kosovo talks, and Asher Abehsera, his business partner, he drew up plans in one of the fastest-growing tourist zones in the world.

Kushner is no stranger to the Albanian coastline, having vacationed here twice in the past three years, deciding to try to do business on his second trip when accompanied by Grenell and his wife, Trump’s daughter, he met with Prime Minister Edi Rama. 

The New York Times reported Affinity is talking to Albania’s Kastrati Group on the local know-how. Kastrati is one of the country’s largest companies with investments in all major areas of the economy, including running Tirana International Airport, hotels, massive construction projects and a large oil distribution network. 

-Albanian government confirms Sazan application, but not Zvernec-

The Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment confirmed there had been interest, telling VoA’s Albanian service that Kushner's company has submitted an application to the Investment Development Agency "for a tourist project on Sazan Island, like many applications made by foreign investors.”

The good news is that now tourism has entered the sectors of interest of foreign investors, not only Albanians. But according to the law, the project must go through several stages of review before decisions are made, but anyway, so far, such a project has not yet come to the Ministry of Tourism and Environment," it said in a statement.

In its explanation, the ministry noted that there have been previous interests and requests for tourist development on Sazan Island, “which undoubtedly align with our ambition to turn the island into a jewel of Mediterranean tourism, but we have rejected them because the development objectives of the interested parties have not been considered in line with the vision of environmentally friendly tourism and nature, a necessary balance for Albania's tourist vision for 2030.”

Regarding the Zvërnec case, the ministry said it has no knowledge of such a project, adding that "any proposal and effort to invest in Albania is welcome.”

The ministry said the Albanian government has not hidden its ambition to promote and facilitate quality investments in excellence tourism and 5-star hotels, with international standards. 

“Any serious investor who comes, especially from strategic allied countries of Albania such as the United States, has an open door to contribute to the qualitative growth of tourism and high standards in this vital sector for the country's economy," it added.

-Political influence in the mix?- 

Kushner served as a senior advisor to the White House. After leaving his government position, he founded Affinity Partners, which, according to Bloomberg, holds assets worth $3.1 billion. The company received backing from investors from the Middle Eastern countries, including around $2 billion from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. He is also exploring opportunities to invest in renewable energy, data centers, and artificial intelligence.

U.S. media raised concern over the ethics of such a deal as it appears that Affinity is riding on the Trump name and political connections made during his administration to make deals abroad, but Kushner and Grenell responded they are simply doing investments without any political ties. 

Albanian media critical of the government saw the deal as “a plan B” for Prime Minister Rama in case Trump retakes the White House. As a nominal leftist with close ties to U.S. activist billionaire George Soros and his political world view, Rama is tied to President Joe Biden’s Democrats naturally and had been an early critic of Trump, tempering his views once he was elected president.

But statements to the media from both the potential investor and the government focus solely on this being a good business opportunity as the U.S. investor aims to makes inroads in the Western Balkans, pointing out that s  third project in Belgrade aims to transform three abandoned blocks in the heart of the Serbian capital into a luxury hotel with commercial space and over 1,500 residences. The historic area has been vacant since NATO bombing in April 1999 targeting the former government's Ministry of Defense building.

Kushner met Rama in Tirana during a recent visit. (Photo: X)


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 16, 2024 12:28