US embassy cable - 06TIRANA564

GOA CRACKING DOWN ON ORGANIZED CRIME AND PASSPORT FRAUD

Identifier: 06TIRANA564
Wikileaks: View 06TIRANA564 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2006-05-30 11:53:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: KCRM PGOV ASEC PINR KFRD CVIS KRIM AL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXYZ0015
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTI #0564/01 1501153
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301153Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4346
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 5272
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1190
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1080
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1129
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 2710
RUEHSQ/AMEMBASSY SKOPJE 4105
RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0426
RUEHVB/AMEMBASSY ZAGREB 2931
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0826
RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 2914
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEHNA/DEA HQS WASHDC
RUFNPKB/COMUSNAVEUR POLAD NAPLES IT
RUFNPKB/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2150
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3267
RUEHPS/USOFFICE PRISTINA 3410
C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000564 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (MBENEDICT) AND INL/AAE 
NSC FOR BRAUN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2016 
TAGS: KCRM, PGOV, ASEC, PINR, KFRD, CVIS, KRIM, AL 
SUBJECT: GOA CRACKING DOWN ON ORGANIZED CRIME AND PASSPORT 
FRAUD 
 
REF: A. 05 TIRANA 1461 
 
     B. TIRANA 398 
     C. TIRANA 436 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Marcie B. Ries. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Two unrelated, but widely reported arrests 
were made in recent days, both of which highlight the fight 
of Albanian police and prosecutors against corruption and 
organized crime. In the first case, seven members of a drug 
trafficking network who were laundering proceeds through 
construction projects were arrested simultaneously in four 
cities across the country.  According to media reports, 
prosecutors obtained warrants authorizing the seizure of 
apartment buildings, beach-front property, cash, and luxury 
vehicles. In the second case, the chief of police and three 
of his staff in the central Albanian city of Tepelena were 
arrested for producing false passports. END SUMMARY. 
 
CONSTRUCTION GANG ARRESTED 
-------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Following a year-long investigation carried out by 
the Serious Crimes Prosecutor's Office and the Albanian State 
Police (ASP), the Special Operations Force of the ASP 
arrested on May 23, 2006 seven members of a drug trafficking 
and money laundering network. The operation was carried out 
in simultaneous pre-dawn raids in four cities across Albania: 
Tirana, Elbasan, Durres, and Vlora. The arrested include the 
purported boss of the network, Ilir Kociaj,  as well as 
Geront Tola (AKA Geront Dedja), Zamir Vadardha, Bledar 
Balliu, Aleksandre Kolici (AKA Aleksandre Gremi), Leonard 
Cobaj, and Ervin Tavanxhi. The latter is the son of a former 
Democratic Party (DP) member of parliament, Kozma Tavanxhi, 
who served between 1992 and 1996. The seven have been charged 
with international drug trafficking and participation in 
organized crime. These names have been provided to the 
Consular Section for inclusion in Consular Lookout and 
Accountability System. 
 
3. (SBU) The investigation was begun last June by the 
Prosecutor of Serious Crimes, following information obtained 
from the prosecutor of Florence, Italy, which indicated that 
the defendants were involved in drug trafficking in the 
regions of Tuscany and Lombardy in 2003-2004. According to 
media reports, some of those arrested were wanted by Italian 
authorities and had fled that country in 2004 following the 
arrest of 13 other Albanians involved in drug trafficking and 
organized crime. In addition to trafficking drugs into Italy, 
the group also reportedly operated in The Netherlands, 
Germany, and France. During the raids, police seized 
USD29,000, Euro3,000, LEK1 million, and four new luxury 
Mercedes-Benz vehicles. 
 
4. (SBU) In addition to vehicles, the individuals reportedly 
invested in construction projects and other fixed assets, 
including luxury apartments and beach-side villas. Such 
lucrative investments have become the instrument of choice 
for money laundering. Prosecutors have established a direct 
connection between a 12-story apartment building currently 
under construction in Elbasan and Ilir Kociaj, the purported 
crime boss and owner of a construction firm in that city. The 
 
Prosecutor's office reportedly has made such solid links to 
two other apartment-building construction projects in Elbasan 
and Tirana, as well as the purchase of several luxury 
apartments in Tirana and beach-front properties in Durres and 
Vlora. Authorities have frozen the assets and banking 
accounts of all of the suspected individuals as well as the 
associated construction companies. 
 
CORRUPT POLICE OFFICIAL ARRESTED FOR PASSPORT FRAUD 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
5. (SBU) On May 23, 2006, Afrim Zeqiri, Chief of police in 
Tepelena, was arrested along with his driver, Xhevhir 
Myrtajn, Passport clerk, Ali Hajdini, and Police Inspector, 
Behar Pasha. These arrests followed the arrest of a wanted 
individual from Kukes who was found in possession of a 
passport issued in Tepelena. Zeqiri and the others are 
accused of having knowingly produced a passport with a false 
name for a known criminal wanted by the police. Based on an 
investigation carried out by the Internal Control Service of 
the Ministry of the Interior, 60 other cases have been 
uncovered at the Tepelena office in which passports have been 
issued in names which do not appear in the Civil Registry of 
that locale. (NOTE: In the Albanian system, there is no 
central passport issuance agency and passports are issued by 
regional offices based on birth and civil registration 
records in that locale. Typically, passports can only be 
issued for individuals who are registered in that district. 
END NOTE.) It is believed that applicants paid up to 1000 
Euros for a false passport. 
 
6. (C) COMMENT:  These high profile raids and arrests are 
examples that Albanian prosecutors and police can point to 
they work to demonstrate that they are serious about cleaning 
things up. The next step will be getting these criminals 
convicted. It will be interesting to see how the process 
plays out between the police, the prosecutors, and the 
judges, particularly in the current overheated political 
climate. These high profile cases underscore the importance 
of cooperation between prosecutors and police in attacking 
organized crime and corruption (see reftel C). End Comment. 
RIES 

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