In a unanimous and historic order issued on Friday in Washington DC following an arbitration hearing before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”), the Government of Albania has been requested to “take all actions necessary to suspend” the extradition proceedings in London against Francesco Becchetti, the owner and President of Leyton Orient Football Club and Mauro De Renzis, the manager of Agon Channel TV.
In addition, the three-member Arbitral Tribunal also recommended that Albania suspend the underlying criminal proceedings against all the Claimants to the case and that both sides come to an agreement on the preservation of the Claimants’ assets, which had been seized by Albania, for the duration of the full arbitration. (ICSID Case No ARB/15/28 – Hydro Srl, Costruzioni Srl, Francesco Becchetti, Mauro De Renzis, Stefania Grigolon and Liliana Condomitti v Albania,).
Prior to Friday’s decision, no ICSID tribunal has ever gone as far as calling for the suspension of extradition proceedings, and there are only three known cases of ICSID tribunals ordering the suspension of criminal proceedings. In its decision – issued less than a month after the provisional measures hearing – the Arbitral Tribunal requested the suspension, clearly noting that “any obstruction of the investigation or prosecution of conduct that is reasonably suspected to be criminal in nature should only be ordered where that is absolutely necessary” and confirmed that it “is satisfied that this is such a case.”
The Claimants brought the ICSID arbitration for violations of the Albania-Italy Bilateral Investment Treaty (“BIT”) following a number of ongoing attacks and harassment against them and their investments which include two television stations and a hydroelectric plant. One Claimant, Hydro Srl, is also concurrently involved in an ICC arbitration arising out of Albania’s breaches of its concession agreement for the hydro-electric plant.
The Claimants in the ICSID arbitration argued that in response to their assertion of their rights to arbitration, Albania consequently launched a number of ‘meritless and abusive’ tax investigations and criminal proceedings against them and their local investments, seized their Albanian assets and issued arrest warrants against Francesco Becchetti and Mauro De Renzis seeking to obtain their extradition from the United Kingdom.