Albanian Police Arrest Two Former MPs and Several Other Crime Bosses, as the EU Pressures Tirana to Crack Down on Organised Crime and Corruption

Arben Cuko Astrit Avdyli Arben Ndoka
Arben Cuko (left), Astrit Avdyli (center), Arben Ndoka (right).

Tirana, Albania | 22 Oct 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s Police have arrested two former socialist MPs and several other notorious crime bosses, as the country’s government vows to crack down on corruption and organized crime.

The secret police operation has been conducted simultaneously with several other arrests of high ranking members of the Avdyli family, a notorious criminal group which owns businesses in the area of Shijak and Durrës. The arrest of two other infamous crime bosss Lul Berisha and Klemend Balili were also authorized, but they have both escaped authorities, prompting local media to speculate that the secrecy of the cover-up operation was compromised.

Arben Ndoka and Arben Çuko, both former members of parliament from the ruling socialist party ranks, were arrested Monday night after their names were intercepted on several secrete wiretappings of the Avdyli group conducted over the past two years.

Ndoka is accused of falsifying land titles in northern coastal areas of Albania while Çuko stands accused in relation to his recent position of Director of Prisons, where he has allegedly been taking huge bribes to authorize the transfer of a high profile prisoner linked to the Avdyli group.

The huge police operation which was conducted with the help of German authorities, resulted in the arrests of 27 criminals, the seizure of over 180kg of morphine used for the production of heroine, as well as the arrests of the Avdyli family members and the two former socialist MPs.

During a press conference yesterday, Albania’s National Police Force said the operation coded ‘Vol-Vo 4’ hit back at “members of 4 criminal groups and was spread across 12 cities in Albania, without any compromise to the secrecy, despite the huge scale of it, involving over 1500 officers on the ground”.

Albania’s Police added that investigations are ongoing on several other criminal groups and that very soon there will be other results in this “war without compromise”.

Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama has hailed the operation, adding that “no one is above the law”.

The head of the European Union Delegation in Tirana Luigi Soreca also praised the operation but cautioned on its final result.

We welcome the large anti-drugs operation conducted today in several towns by Albanian State Police. Fight against organised crime and drug trafficking is top priority for the EU. Now we expect that prosecutions and convictions would follow for a solid track record”, – said Soreca in a tweet.

Albania has been under heavy pressure from Brussels and Washington to crack down on its organised crime structures and fight corruption before it can formally open membership talks with the EU.

EU leaders accepted last June a recommendation by the European Commission to start accession talks with Albania in 2019, given the country has shown tangible progress on justice reform and fight against corruption and organised crime.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has vowed to show visible results, despite slow progress of an EU backed reform of the country’s highly corrupt justice system.

All Western Balkan countries hope to join an increasingly skeptical and tired European Union with a target agenda of 2025 for final steps of membership.

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