Exclusive report by Gjergj Thanasi: Albanian biometric passports & Links to International Terrorist Rings
Ioannis Michaletos 10 Dec 2011 In the following exclusive investigative report, the acclaimed journalist from Tirana-Albania, Gjergj Thanasi outlines the serious security issues relating to the Albanian biometric passport system and the links with international organized crime and terrorist rings and with the Iranian intelligence establishment especially. The Problematic Albanian Biometric Passports and the Links to International Terrorist RingsBy Gjergj Thanasi
The equipment of the Albanians with biometric identity cards and passports was a must in order to have Albanians travelling in European Union countries without visa restriction. The removal of travel restriction was a kind of an European gift to Albanians on the eve of Christmas 2010.Such passports are highly reliable and a tough barrier to criminals and terrorists penetrating Europe under false names. The system is really false proof. The only way to evade the system is to collude with the Albanian authorities issuing the passports, thus stealing the identity of somebody else.
Unfortunately this is precisely what happened in Albania. Almost from the very beginning Albanian emigration police as well as several European border police controls detected individuals equipped with regular Albanian biometric passports having borrowed the identity of somebody else. Judging by the covering of the Albanian media such falsified biometric passports are almost a daily occurrence.
The bearers of falsified Albanian passports range from ethnic Albanians citizens of the Republic of Kosova(they still need a visa to travel to Europe), to Albanians being under expulsion or travel bans in European countries. The new identity help them to travel and stay in Europe up to 90 days in succession without any difficulty. There are cases when even convicted criminals, or wanted individuals (Albanian citizens) are equipped with a biometric passport with a new identity, thus evading justice and facilitating their criminal activity in Europe as well as in Albania. Only casual finger prints checks by one or another European law enforcing agency has resulted in pin pointing individuals with a criminal record or even wanted persons having a new identity. Albanian media like the newspaper Investigimi (an article by Durim Sula) and Durres Bulevard(an article by Dr. Idriz Tafa) have also made public of evidence that terrorists from Yemen and elements of Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the so called Quds Force are in possession of Albanian biometric passports with typical Albanian names and surnames.
Mr. Armand Teliti the Director General of the Albanian General Register Office during a session of the security sub comity of the Albanian Parliament answering the questions of MP Gazmend Oketa (wright wing) and MP Gamir Bizhga (left wing) admitted that Albanian authorities have detected over 500 cases of biometric passports issued to persons with a borrowed identity. The Albanian media has directly accused Mr. Teliti of being part of the system issuing such problematic passports .Up to now only the bearers of such passports have been detained by the emigration police. In a couple of cases the civil servants of remote villages register offices and employees of Aleat-Safran concessionary company have also been arrested. Such cases are under trial or have received short term prison sentences as well as fines according to Albania law.
No body but the gang issuing the false passports knows the exact number and identity of the bearers of such false biometric passports. According to the newspaper Investigimi American security specialists are actively collaborating with Albanian Secrete Service SHIK to identify Iranian citizens equipped with Albanian biometric passports. The newspaper quoting Albanian Secret Service sources links the murder and the burning of the body of Isa Copa a high ranking officer of Albanian Secret Service (late October 2011 in the outskirts of Durres the main port of Albania)with the affair of the Iranian citizens equipped with Albanian biometric passports and bearing Albanian names and surnames.
This is not the first scandal concerning Albanian passports. In 2002 the deputy minister of the interiors Bujar Himci and col. Veli Myftari Director General of the Albania Police force were arrested for funds embezzlement amounting to four million USD concerning the issuing of the Albanian passports. They landed in prison after the official complaint of Euroget an American company which was unlawfully prevented from bidding for the production of the Albanian passports. The claim of this company was strongly supported by the Charles Levesque the then economic officer of the Us Embassy in Tirana.
It is obvious, in this case top civil servants ended in prison only for funds embezzlement, while now we have serious allegation of collusion with terrorists and yet only small fry is facing justice.
the pass scandal in 2002 albania.de
Corrupt Tender for Passport Provider
PURGES FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
by Ben Andoni
TIRANA, 31.10.2002. (Beta) – The latest breakthrough in the
anti-corruption campaign in Albania was the arrest of two senior
police officials and a former government official, for fixing a
tender for new Albanian passports.
Deputy Interior Minister Bujar Himci, and Public Security Chief Veli
Myftari and former head of the department for public procurement
Arben Orifti were suspected of favoring the German Bundesdruckerei
company, which participated in a tender to chose a printer for new
Albanian passports, costing the state to lose US$2 million.
Himci could not have dreamed what was to happen to him on Oct. 4,
when police came to pick him up. Only a few minutes before his
arrest, he had said goodbye to visiting Italian Interior Minister
Alfred Mantovano at at the Rinas airport in Albania.
At the same time, Veli Myftari and Arben Prifti were arrested at
home. They had been expecting police to visit them, after the affair
was publicly exposed.
The case and evidence of the scam, which had been sitting on state
officials` shelves for over a year, was brought out into the light by
incumbent Interior Minister Luan Rama. He promised that this time the
affair would be thoroughly investigated, From top to bottom.
The promise came after several big disappointments in the trumpeted
anti-corruption campaign. Military procurement and electricity import
scams revealed structural difficulties in bringing the senior
officials responsible for them to justice, and also revealed an
inefficient judiciary, which had punished very few people.
In 1990, the average Albanian had know idea what a passport was.
After Albania opened itself to the world, preceded by years of self-
isolation, citizens began leaving from the country en masse, and
passport-counterfeiting became a lucrative business. To prevent this,
the government changed passports forms three times.
A five-year contract with a Canadian company charged with printing
passports expired in December 2000. Only in March 2001, well into a
shortage of blank passports forms did the government order the
department for public procurement to prepare a tender. The process
was dragged out, starting in April, but was postponed by the
commission charged with the tender for a week, as, it explained, the
German contender was not ready. A week later, the commission
postponed the tender indefinitely. The commission`s head was sacked
and replaced by Bujar Himci, the deputy minister, a month later.
Finally, four days after that, the commission declared that the
German Bundesdruckerei company had been chosen for the job, despite
the fact that its offer was much higher than the competition`s, which
included the French EFTSF, British De La Roi and U.S. EuroGet.
The U.S. embassy protested and requested that chief of the anti-
corruption team Ndre Legishi investigate the case. The U.S. embassy
accused the tender commission of fixing the tender in favor of the
German company, by allowing it access to more information than the
others, among other things.
The Interior Ministry, however, dismissed the accusations, inviting
everyone interested to freely inspect the process for themselves and
promising that the new passports would come out by January 2002.
An investigation, however, revealed that the German company`s offer
was a staggering US$1.8 million higher than the other offers.
Prosecutors claimed that the price was inexcusably high, much higher
than the actual expenses for the passports, even by several times.
Veli Myftari, who signed the decision choosing the company, said in
defense that he was not an expert on passports and that he had only
signed what minister Ilir Djoni had ordered him to.
Djoni is currently living in the U.S., where he is enrolled in post-
graduate studies, while one of the key people in the entire process,
former procurement director Edmond Aliaj is at large.
The first check of the tender was conducted at the beginning of 2002.
State inspectors found numerous irregularities in the process and
contracts and informed the then Albanian president, Rexhep Meidani,
parliament speaker Namik Dokle, Prime Minister Ilir Meta, and the
head of the procurement`s office Arben Orifti, now facing trial.
Meta reacted, sacking Orifti and Edmond Alijal. The investigation
produced no results until a new cabinet was chosen. In addition to
Orfiti and Myftari, this was the first time that police arrested an
incumbent official the deputy interior minister.
Despite U.S. and British protests, Bundesdrukerei, was granted the
contract, but it failed to finish the job within the specified,
six-month deadline, which caused additional trouble. Because of the
lack of blank passports in the meantime, they were only issued in
emergencies, like for medical treatment abroad. Minister Luan Rama
told the public that police in certain places had been reported to be
taking bribes of up to US$700 for passports.
The new government has announced a crackdown on corruption, but the
public has heard all of this before, from the other governments. This
is why the first arrest of a state official and the investigation of
the passport scandal are still interpreted as a small token of good
will. Moreover, the case has not reached court yet, and the
judiciary has already proven to be a bottleneck in the
Festnahme des Geschäfts Partner von Ludgar Vollmer in Albanien, u.a. die höchsten Polizei Direktoren und der Vizw Innenminister Bujar Himci im Oktober 2002. Der Innenminister und Mafia Boss Ilir Gjoni, dankte zuvor ab und floh in die USA, ebenso war der Geschäftsparnter und Mafia Boss Ilir Meta ab Ende Januar 2002 nicht mehr im Amte, nachdem seine guten Freunde und der Ehefrau, als Drogen Schmuggler und mit Diplomaten Pass natürlich verhaftet wurden in Italien.
Festnahme in der Sache mit der Bundesdruckerei:u.a. Vize Innenministerin Bujar Himci am 4.10.21, der 600 neue Bundesdruckerei Pässe direkt an die Mafia in im Auftrage von Ilir Meta unregistriert weiter gab.7. The group of Edmond Pustina and Tota in the Fortuzi street (approximately 45 years old).
Mond Pustina is the first cousin of Nanos brother in law, Fatos Pustina, and has been previously convicted seven years ago for drugs. Currently he works in customs. In this group also participate Ilir Arbana (officer in the customs police) and Ardian Resuli, former police chief in Saranda and Durres who currently invests his profits in construction. They keep relations with Gramoz Ruci, head of the parliamentary group of the socialist party and Ilir Gjoni**, former minister of interior. Kane and collaborators in the Albanian Secret Services.
For the visa liberalization anniversary, the Interior Minister, Bujar Nishani, was called in a hearing session by the Parliamentary Commission of Integration.
Naturally, I dont feel good that Albania is ranked second in the FRONTEX report, right after Ukraine, Bushati declared.
The Interior Minister declared that these Albanians use foreign falsified documents, not those used by the Albanian state.
This is a report for the Albanians that have traveled for years in EU, people who have been living in Italy and Greece for the last 20 years, Nishani declared.
Another opposition MP, Taulant Balla, declared that the prosecution is investigating groups that falsify these identification documents for 5000 EUR.
Balla declared that the opposition had asked the Police to be part of the applicants identification, something that the Interior Minister made with an internal order on November 2011.
The exclusion of the state police from the biometric passport production process has increased the risks for putting the passports in dangerous hands, Balla declared.
Nishani did not deny that there have been passport production company employees who were involved in corruption.
The have been involved in criminal activity, giving fake data for some citizens and making this way a falsified document, Nishani declared.
The opposition MPs launched accusations for impunity and corruption, which spurred arguments before the end of the session.
We will have difficulties for as long that we have problems that we must address to. We have been facing these problems since 2005, Nishani told the MPs.
To the request of the Socialist MP for cooperating in resolving the blood feud phenomenon, the Interior Minister declared that some individuals and associations have exaggerated the figures, in order to profit from projects, although he admitted that the phenomenon was present.