Balkans: March 22, 2002


: Remember all of the reports in 1998 linking the Kosovo Liberation Army to narcotics trafficking? Many of those links were forged during Albanias Communist era, specifically by the Albanian security services and secret police. Old ties dont fade. This past week IWPR ran a long article on links between senior Albanian government officials and the European drug trade. Several men recently arrested in Albania for narcotics smuggling were senior law enforcement officials. In fact, one of the policemen nabbed was LTC Shamet Bejko, the chief of the port police in Durres. Other members of the drug ring were responsible for providing ships leaving Durres with legal transit permits. The fact that the men were investigated and arrested is an encouraging sign. However, you dont get senior security and trade jobs in Albania without political connections, therefore its no surprise that investigators allege the drug links go deeper into the Albanian political establishment. The article also reported that in February 20 kilos of heroin were found in a police car near the Kosovo border. Heres one telling quote: "The involvement of police structures in this illegal traffic is obvious - the Durres case proves it," said Josif Shtembari, head of the public order ministry's internal investigation team...


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