The expansion of organized crime across national borders has become a key security concern for the international community. In this theoretically and empirically vibrant portrait of a global phenomenon, Jana Arsovska examines some of the most widespread myths about the so-called Albanian Mafia. Based on more than a decade of research, including interviews with victims, offenders, and law enforcement across ten countries, as well as court files and confidential intelligence reports, Decoding Albanian Organized Crime presents a comprehensive overview of the causes, codes of conduct, activities, migration, and structure of Albanian organized crime groups in the Balkans, Western Europe, and the United States. Paying particular attention to the dynamic relationships among culture, politics, and organized crime, the book develops a framework for understanding the global growth of the criminal underworld and provides a model for future comparative research.
Albania: Under The Yoke Of Rising Oligarchs – OpEd
The New Year will bring elections for Albania and its people, meanwhile Mr. Edi Rama and his confidants have allocated large sums of money and plan to feast a large number of staffers in the Prime Minister’s office at the expense of Albania’s taxpayers.
In 2017, his last year in office, Mr. Rama and his associates are expected to continue with their luxurious life (at home and abroad), while their fellow countrymen are living in the worst conditions ever experienced in the last twenty six years of their transitional democracy system.
As the Albanian Parliament approved the National Budget for 2017, it supplied many more suitcases – in addition to the millions of euros generated by massive marijuana farming from Vermosh to Konispol – filled with the money paid by Albania’s taxpayers, to Mr. Edi Rama and his corrupt ministers, who have stashed their wealth abroad and continue to be ranked as Europe’s richest oligarchs.
According to an estimate conducted last year by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Mr. Rama has amassed a net worth of over US$200 million, an amount that has certainly and proportionately grown during the third year of his term as Prime Minister considering that he receives at least twenty percent as a commission from the total amount of every public project that is executed by his trusted private companies who acquire public bids in the sectors of: infrastructure development, public works, health services and information technology.
According to Panama Papers and other reliable sources, Mr. Rama’s wealth is deposited in international banking accounts established by his family circle and close associates that work together on sustainable development projects in Albania and who have been deeply involved with the Venezuelan economist Ricardo Hausmann, projects that have had little to no impact on the lives of average Albanians. Mr. Anastas Angjeli, Edi Rama’s close associate, Albanian MP and a Former Minister of Public Finances, drives a brand new Audi A8 in the streets of Tirana. Moreover, Mr. Taulant Balla, another member of Albanian Parliament, is responsible for employment opportunities in the current Albanian Government; he has established a fee of two thousand euros to be paid beforehand by every candidate who aspires to be a public servant. On the other hand, Mr. Genti Gazheli, Mr. Edi Rama’s envoy to the Republic of Turkey, has a tarnished record from his service in Albania’s border Customs Agency, a time when he would reportedly hide large sums of money whenever he had an opportunity to allow large shipments of commodities to enter Albanian territory, thus avoiding payment of taxes by his random ‘clients’.
In 2017, the Prime Minister’s office will see the faces of 641 new employees, meanwhile in the National Assembly there are only 405 staffers who help organize the daily activities for 140 Members of Parliament, including its Speaker and three Deputy Speakers. The Prime Minister’s office has more employees than: the Ministry of Economy (with over 580 employees); Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (with less than 440 employees); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with 506 employees including its diplomatic missions abroad); the Ministry of Integration (composed by 113 employees).
While Mr. Rama’s number of staff members will reach over 640, the Albanian President’s support staff does not exceed seventy six; moreover the Prime Minister’s annual budget is over 27.6 million euros and the President’s Budget is barely 1.5 million euros.
The luxurious lifestyle of Albania’s Prime Minister is not only based on the large number of servants that are in his courtyard, he will enjoy large sums of money to be spent over the new fiscal year, almost 28 million euros, an amount that is equal to the salary of 1,200 Albanian retirees or the equivalent of ten thousand university scholarships abroad. Every employee in the Prime Minister’s Office will spend approximately 43 thousand euros per year (or 3,600 euros/month) said in other words, every staffer in Mr. Rama’s cabinet will cost Albanian taxpayers an equal amount that is needed to pay twenty retirement salaries every month.
Moreover, Mr. Rama has plans to spend over one million euros to rent luxurious cars, an amount that is equivalent to twenty vehicles (latest generation) from Mercedes Benz; for their government offices there will be spent an additional 6.6 million euros in furniture, remodeling and other maintenance expenses.
The interaction between Mr. Rama’s Government and Albanian Citizens is as chilling as ever before; it is a testimony of Tirana’s attitude towards handling the nation’s overwhelming poverty, a behavior that violates the well-known concept of Charles Horton Cooley, “the Looking Glass Self,” while suggesting that Albanians represent a glass that is viewed by Tirana’s administration and the latter reacts according to the conduct of its constituents. On Mr. Rama’s glamorous level of personal expenses we see that his constituents’ persistent responses are meaningless let alone being a source of reflection and humbleness.
Question: Is the EEAS aware of any relatives, of members of the Albanian government, who are working for the EU-delegation? If yes, could you please provide us with the respective names?
Reply: The EEAS confirms that to the best of our knowledge no member of staff currently working for the EU Delegation in Tirana is a relative of a high-ranking member of the Albanian government.
The same could be said of Kim Jong-un – that “to the best of our knowledge, His Excellency is not a criminal”.
OP/ED: The EU’s tragic mistakes in the Western Balkans
By Spiros Sideris / Published on: 02-05-2017, 00:03
The EU’s responsibilities are great as far as the history which was written after 1991 in Europe is concerned. However, despite the bad experience that should have been a lesson in European policy for the course which Western Balkan countries would follow, the EU continued to make the same mistakes, pushing countries that are in the process of joining the Union into new conflicts.
The EU’s first mistake was the loss of impartiality with regard to its relations with the accession states. By moving the goal posts according to the country the EU is losing its credibility and creates contradictory expectations for the accession countries.
The breakup of Yugoslavia, the upsurge of Albanian nationalism, the need for new countries‘ policies for funding, and the loosening of structures to combat corruption and organised crime have made the rise of corruption and organised crime possible.
Albania, Kosovo, FYROM, Montenegro, Bosnia became the crossroads for trafficking drugs, smuggling goods, weapons, and exporting extremist-terrorists.
The EU, following the promises it made without the criteria of its Treaties being fulfilled, gave hope to governments for membership, while Union officials such as
Large amounts of money from the EU became political money, while black money from the drug trade funded almost all political parties. The rise of nationalism came to be added to the agenda of the policies of several countries from the Western Balkans, causing tensions and instability in the region…IBNA-balkaneu
Letter from Albania: Why I want to leave
You ask me why, I, as a successful professional with a good job and a husband who works for a successful company living in a small but comfortable flat, want to leave Albania.
I’m looking at my young son who is happily drawing.
He’s an intelligent little boy who likes to help people. He has an enquiring mind but His enquiring mind gets him into trouble with teachers who see his questions as a challenge to their authority. I want him to be able to learn from a stable educational system, which teaches him the skills of crucial analysis that makes him competitive to his peers in developed countries. I want him to grow kind and helpful without their being seen as a weakness to be laughed at. In our culture, men shouldn’t be kind. They learn this in the playground.
He works hard, but this is not enough. Some of his teachers expect some sort of monetary recompense at exam time otherwise he stands no chance of passing. The teacher herself possibly received the job through payment to the headmaster and who knows whether the headmaster paid the Education director for his. These days, it seems that the teaching profession has attracted many of who are not interested in being teachers and who do not want to teach. This is an insult to those teachers who genuinely want to. =
It’s not the worst thing. What really matters to me is that the values of honesty or decency are not taught. On the contrary, they are seen as a barrier to survival in our country. The parents of his friends realise this and indulge their children’s every whim and train them to fight to get what they want, regardless of anybody else around them.
My child turns on the television and see politicians – his role models – calling each other names and behaving like spoilt children who cannot get their own way. And he will meet the children of many of these people driving fast cars and avoiding police fines or receiving university diplomas and jobs through the simple expedient of paying bribes or using the name of their father. If these ‘role models’ have managed to accumulate material goods without working for them honestly, how can my son appreciate hard work, either as a means to an end or for its own sake? Knowing this teaches children to grow up with a sense of hopelessness and apathy. They think the only thing left for them is to drink coffee, gossip about each other and recycling the same news which is usually from a media controlled by one of the main parties and which continue the name-calling and insults. I don’t want my child to grow up in this environment.
He, like me will get a job, possibly even a good one. But he, like me, is super-conscientious. This means he will focus on getting the job done even if that means doing other people’s work because they are too lazy to do it themselves (possibly because they got the job through a ‘friend’ so they know their job is safe). Then so be it. He must be prepared, like I am, to be treated as naive for working so hard. He will suppress his natural intelligence lest the boss sees him as a threat.
I want him to live in a country where he pays his taxes and knows that the taxes will be used for the country rather than into a speedboat, a villa or a fast car for somebody’s son. I want him to know that the taxes go to paying decent wages so that he doesn’t have to bribe the doctor or the policeman. I prefer his taxes to go into a kidney machine to save the life of his grandmother or to mend the hole in the main road so that his father’s car doesn’t get damaged: it’s better than paying for a Rolex watch or a smart suit for somebody who doesn’t deserve it. I want him to know that if he has a dispute in court, the judge will make a decision based on the merits of the opposing cases rather than on the number of zeros in the opposing bank notes.
I wanted to stay and change the system from inside but I cannot do it alone. I know that many of my fellow Albanians have a tendency to vote for the politician who promises them a job, bribes them or threatens them. Maybe I cannot blame them for doing it: they have to live. I can certainly blame those politician who sees government jobs, not as positions of responsibility that are given to the most deserving candidate but rather as favours to be dispensed to repay moral debts in the way that kings bestowed titles to friends in sixteenth century Europe or as despotic minister give jobs in 21st century Africa. And as new people with no experience are given responsible jobs after every election and as new rules are made simply because the old rules ‘were made by the previous government’, the whole system is paralysed and stagnant.
I know that foreign governments who could help us will not interfere because they respect the right of our leaders to misrule and the right of the electorate to mis-vote for them. The fact that so many of us want to leave might suggest that we want foreigners’ moral code to intrude on our sovereignty, although, of course, our politicians do not.
So as the international community won’t come to me, I‘ll try to go to them. We’ve had 25 years of pseudo-democracy that has overseen a decline in morality and, given the current educational system, there is no reason to believe there won’t be another 25 years of it.
While I may be able to grit my teeth and live through it, I don’t want my child to.
Alan, that’s why I want to leave