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New study: Albania’s organized crime tied to politics

Albania’s organized crime tied to politics

A new study by the Open Society Foundation for Albania, presented in Tirana on Friday, revealed how organized crime, business, judiciary, and politics have been tied together for years in a complex relationship based on common interests and exploitation for mutual benefit, said the Balkan Insight.

"Criminal organizations have ties with politics, and the latter interferes by neutralizing law enforcement agencies through the appointment of trusted persons or party militants," the report read.

According to the report, political parties in Albania have benefited greatly from funds from criminal networks. The study also noted the many different methods that criminal organizations use, such as extortion of businesses revenues through fines or by offering so-called “protection” from other gangs; support of political candidates or scaring opponents in elections; manipulation of votes and the funding of electoral campaigns in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution.

The study, conducted by Fabian Zhilla and Besfort Lamallari, is based on analysis of 71 decisions of the first instance court of serious crimes on about 50 criminal structures.

Researchers also conducted 84 interviews with present and former judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, journalists and representatives of civil society.

One of the interesting findings of the study is also the role that former communist officials from state agencies played in the early years of organized crime in multi-party Albania.

“Infiltration of organized crime into weak Albanian ins­­­­­­titutions ensured the untouchability of figures involved in organized crime. A large number of these had worked in the past as secret service agents, as officers of the Republican Guard, or even as drivers or sportsmen during the previous regime," the report said, analyzing the early 1990s.

The research also pointed out that almost all the main cities of Albania have their own structured crime groups that exercise territorial control, and focus mainly on the trafficking of narcotics, and on extortion and debt collection.