Author: Habjon Hasani
The expedition that started as an ambitious desire of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini for the excavation of Butrint in 1924, seems that after nearly ten decades it may degrade into an investigation by the US senate against a suspicious affair involving senior Albanian government officials, representatives of the American funds, camouflaged international lobbying favours and up to tarnishing the name of the Rothschild financial dynasty.
This whole story has at its core a resourceful American businessman, his name is Michael Granoff. He runs a private investment fund in New York, while in Tirana he heads an entity called “Albanian American Development Foundation” (AADF).
This entity in Albania works as an economic structure that has official support from the American government and especially USAID. The legal status of this entity is still unclear, it is not exactly understood to what extent the AADF is an American state institution and to what extent it is a private business of Mr. Granoff.
Recently, in 2022, after several 4-year long attempts, the AADF led by Mr. Granoff, managed to conclude an agreement with the Albanian government for the acquisition of Butrint National Park, an asset with colossal archaeological values, strictly protected by UNESCO. Since the beginning of the 90s, this park turned into the weakness of one of the most powerful people on the planet, Lord Jacob Rothschild.
The latter, in 1997 when Albania was engulfed by riots and civil war, privately invested an arrangement for the protection of this park, which resulted a successful one. Perhaps no one better than him knew how to take better care of Butrint in these ten decades of the Park’s existence.
But the takeover of Butrint Park by the AADF and the emergence of the businessman Granoff, seen in the context of voluminous public documents, point to a direct connection of Mr. Granoff to the Rothschild dynasty.
On April 21, 2010 in Wales, England, was founded the commercial entity “The Butrint Foundation Limited”. Its founder was Lord Jacob Rothschild and several personalities or associates of his.
Over the years, the board of directors of this entity was changed several times, until the last two years the names of the descendants of Lord Rothschild, his biological family, are seen to be on the board of directors. (Read here the full company history)
But on the other side of the ocean, thousands miles away, in New York, emerge traces of the Rothschild entity, this time linked to the American businessman Michael Granoff.
It turns out that Mr. Granoff has founded in 1994 the investment fund named “Pomona Private Equity Fund”.
Ten years later, in 2014, while submitting a standard statement at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, (Read here the full statement) Mr. Granoff has also stated an interesting detail.
He has stated amongst many other things, that he is the Chairman of the AADF and… “a trusted person of the Rothschild Foundation”.
Being a trusted person means that between the Rothschild Foundation and Mr. Granoff, it somewhere exist a notarial contract through which the Rothschild Foundation has immediately the right to take possession of the entity if Mr. Granoff is unable to work, if he is arrested, or in any other circumstance that makes his commitment impossible.
So, Mr. Granoff is what we call in the Albanian legal terminology an “authorized representative”.
On the other hand, Mr. Granoff’s personal investment fund in New York, is linked to a meaningful detail with the AADF in Tirana.
AADF operates in Tirana under the aureola of an entity of the American state, but a comparison of the data reveals that AADF has provided as the address of the headquarters in New York an address identical to the private investment fund “Pomona Private Equity Fund” which is also the private business of Mr. Granoff.
The officially provided joint address is:
780 THIRD AVENUE, 46TH FLOOR, NEW YORK NY 10017
Two aspects are immediately evident after analysing these public data:
1.The implication of the Rothschild dynasty with the control of Butrint through their trustee
2.Michael Granoff.Mr, Granoff’s conflict of interest, who has registered in his private office in New York, the AADF which is supposed to be an instrument of the USAID and the American state.
While the conflict of interest of Mr. Granoff and the personalization of AADF is an arbitrary given, the role of the Rothschild family begs clarification of the context in which these events took place.
Hashtag.al has asked people with first-hand information on this story; and the situation appears very interesting.
A business card for the “new bourgeois”
Two are the people related to AADF and Lord Rothschild who have acted energetically in Tirana with the aim of concluding an agreement to pass the Butrint Park under the control of AADF. Let’s look at a brief profile of each.
The first one is Richard Hodges, an archaeologist who has collaborated for three decades with Lord Rothschild on the development of Butrint. He is a personal friend of Lord Rothschild, in direct contact with him. Archaeologist Hodges is already in his 70s and finds it difficult to stay in the active academic world in the universities of Europe. The control of Butrint for him is a “golden pension” that benefits him taking into account the living conditions in which he is.
The second one is Michael Granoff himself. An ambitious businessman, with powerful connections in the US administration, the world of elite finance, diplomacy and intelligence. He appears to be an “authorized representative” of the Rothschild dynasty, but this dynasty has hundreds of them. Granoff is not a personal friend of the Lord nor does he belong to the first line of this dynasty.
He is a kind of “nouveau riche” if we see him in the context of financial dynasties. Granoff is a millionaire with powerful administrative and state connections, but dynasties are something else, to get close to the top of dynasties you need a mandate, direct connections, friendship.
Granoff is ambitious, he doesn’t seem satisfied with the status of the “nouveau riche” and for him Butrint is likely to be a well-thought-out operation to secure another kind of business card.
With this accord, Granoff secures himself a business card that elevates him, making him the man Lord Rothschild has entrusted with one of his biggest weaknesses, Butrint.
Granoff and Hodges are well aware of the concern of Lord, now 86, about how Butrint will be managed when the Lord is no longer alive.
Granoff on the other hand has been aware of the lack of interest or weakness on the part of the Lord’s heirs as far as Butrint is concerned. Lord’s son, Nathaniel Rothschild who is fully engaged in multibillion business projects and with a passion for skiing, unfortunately does not have any special concern for Butrint. The Lord’s other heirs also find themselves outsiders in this story. They simply respect this weakness of the patriarch of the family but that’s it.
It is precisely in this opportune context that Granoff has skillfully exploited, offering Lord Rothschild a new plan which will ensure the continuity of Butrint according to Lord Jacob Rothschild’s care and bequest.
For the Lord this is a kind of solution that gives him a guarantee, while for Granoff the conclusion of this deal is his new business card. A precious weapon, a new status, indisputable prestige for this “nouveau riche” who is far from financial and dynasties heads.
The new plan that provides him with the coveted business card, Granoff could only devise through an agreement with the Albanian government.
The details of this agreement, which we will examine below, are likely to implicate Mr. Granoff not simply in a conflict of interest with AADF, but may also expose him as a man who has ignored the Lord’s basic demands for the territory of Butrint and as the man who has arbitrarily overlooked a study invested by the Rothschild Foundation on the milestones of the agreement with the Albanian state.
Butrint, a sophisticated lobbying operation
Michael Granoff has started at least since 2014 his efforts to transfer the Butrint Park to AADF’s control. He has insisted that this project be done at all costs. The man on whom the realization of this plan, so important to Granoff depended, was only one: Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of Albania.
Rama has masterfully understood all of Granoff’s urgency and insistence on this accord, he has understood Granoff’s need for a “new business card” and of course it was completely clear that Granoff was being given an unprecedented concession, he was being given a fortune under the strict protection of UNESCO.
While Granoff looks like the “nouveau riche” in contrast to the elite and financial dynasties, his multiple connections in the American administration and state have a different value, seen in the context of a small and backward country like Albania.
The colossal honor and concession was given to a businessman with multiple connections across the ocean, connections which are often decisive in the fierce and chaotic political race in Tirana.
Granoff’s need for a “new business card” was a golden moment to turn him into a political asset in Tirana, a kind of lobbyist who has been given a colossal concession, plunging Mr. Granoff into a lifelong moral and personal obligation to Prime Minister Rama.
The legal procedures for the agreement to transfer Butrint under the control of the AADF started sometime in 2019.
In April 2020, a study report drawn up by the AADF and the Ministry of Culture determined the outlines of the territory of Butrint that would pass under the control of the AADF. This report was overseen directly by the Rothchild Foundation for Butrint in London.
The key point of this report was related to what was called “area B”, or the area near Ksamil.
After the zoning done by the experts, and the finding on the ground of some built-up areas around Ksamil, in the study report it was decided to cut off about 150 hectares from the Park, as a compromised territory that no longer made sense to protect.
In a decision of the Rama government on January 26, 2022, it was stated that the area of Butrint would be reduced, as a result it was decided that 8 thousand 622 hectares would remain as a protected area from 9 thousand 424 hectares in total.
The difference is 800 hectares.
So, the government removed 800 hectares from the protected area, while the joint study of the AADF with the Ministry of Culture anticipated the reduction of only 150 hectares.
The government’s decision cut off 650 hectares more than the official study monitored by both the Rothschild Foundation and UNESCO anticipated.
In these 650 detached hectares, plans and projects for tourist villages are being developed.
Lord Rothschild himself has on several occasions expressed his insistence that the area be reduced as little as possible, especially the part near Ksamil, where the reduction took place.
Under these abusive conditions, Granoff concluded the agreement with the Albanian government in April 2022.
The ambitious and “nouveau riche”, broke the promise he had taken to preserve as much of the Park’s territory as possible.
As soon as he put the first signature on the agreement, Granoff let go 650 hectares of archaeological wealth, as an omen that warns of his disregard not only for the transparent practices on which AADF is supposed to conduct its work, but above all, it also shows his hypocrisy towards the personal commitment he had made to Lord Rothschild for the preservation of Butrint.
Perhaps Edi Rama understood this abusive deviation of Michael Granoff better than anyone else. A few weeks ago at a conference where Granoff was also present, Rama stung him bitterly saying sarcastically: “Michael, welcome to our club of corrupt and criminals”.
It is impressive that when Rama publicly stung him, Michael Granoff and his assistant Martin Mata, both sat uncomfortably in front of the Albanian prime minister, but even though they laughed easily at his jokes, it didn’t seem like they were very happy with what was happening.
Surely Granoff is aware that something is going on in Washington and that this agreement concluded by him with the Albanian government could expose the AADF to involvement in corrupt practices, and moreover the way this agreement came about could expose Granoff personally as the cause of a problem that tarnishes the reputation of the Rothschild dynasty.
In Washington, the Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Menendez, is gathering evidence of AADF’s involvement in the Butrint case.
Hashtag.al has seen several e-mails and communications made by two of Senator Menendez’s assistants named Damian Murphy and Jason Tuber. Both of Senator’s assistants have contacted several people related to this matter, in Albania and elsewhere, to gather evidences in the context of a Senate investigation into the Butrint agreement and the implication of the AADF in a scheme favoring tourist villages to the detriment of Butrint Park, a problem that damages the image of the USA and destroys the credibility of the AADF as an entity with which the American state operates. /Hashtag.al
NOTE: This article is the intellectual property of Hashtag.al. It is forbidden to copy or reproduce it without citing the origin. The cover photo was created by alias-Allergjiku.