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The evolution of Albanian organised crime groups. What has changed since 1996? Jana Arsovska Catholic University Leuven – Belgium Department of Criminal Law and Criminology D evelopment of smuggling channels in Albania.

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the evolution of albanian organised crime groups

The evolution of Albanian organised crime groups

What has changed since 1996?

Jana Arsovska

Catholic University Leuven – Belgium

Department of Criminal Law and Criminology

d evelopment of smuggling channels in albania
Development of smuggling channels in Albania
  • Deteriorating domestic situation in Albania (early 1990’s) and development of smuggling channels
  • The UN sanctions on Yugoslavia (1992), the abolishment of the Albanian secret service Sigurimi (1991) and smuggling of oil, cigarettes and coffee
  • Reduced size of the army and the defensive apparatus resulted in a great number of surplus weapons
  • Channels for smuggling people to neighbouring states of Greece and Italy
smuggling of people
Smuggling of people
  • Since 1991 about 600 000 Albanians emigrated (40% of the population between 19 and 40 years old, 15 % of the entire Albanian population)
  • The legal population of Albanians in Greece was estimated around 400 000 after the regularisation
  • By 2004, the legal population of Albanian nationals in Italy was estimated to be 200 000 which grew out of 60 000 in 1996
  • Illegal migration was not considered serious offence in Albania and smuggling channels were perceived as “beneficial”
establishment of criminal organisations 1992 1997 and transiting flows up to 2002
Establishment of criminal organisations (1992-1997) and transiting flows up to 2002
  • About 25 criminal organisations, with basis mainly in Vlore, grew out of the emigration flows (1992-1997) and the smuggling during the Kosovo crisis

Transiting flows

  • 1) smuggling of foreigners from neighbouring countries, such as Macedonia and Greece, through Albania and Italy
  • 2) smuggling of foreigners within international networks with Albania as a country of transit
  • 3) trafficking of women and children through Albania
  • Between 1993 and 2001, the government estimated that 100 000 people were trafficked either from or through Albania to various EU countries
  • 2002 police operation ‘Puna’ reduced smuggling/trafficking via speed boats to almost zero
other recent criminal activities
Other recent criminal activities
  • Albania as a base of operations for conducting criminal activities in other countries and proceeds from these activities are laundered in Albania
  • Remittances of Albanian emigrants to families in Albania represent approximately one fifth of GDP, around 33% of the money in circulation is outside the banking system; 42% of the financial trade balance of Albania came from unknown sources
  • Criminal assets are reintroduced in the Albanian economy through the purchases of real estate, tourist agencies, nightlife services and business investments. The construction industry is particularly vulnerable
  • Increased involvement of Albanian crime groups in trafficking of stolen vehicles, smuggling of cigarettes and loan sharking as high-profit-low-risk activities
the kosovo conflict 1998 1999 nexus between politics and organised crime
The Kosovo conflict (1998-1999): nexus between politics and organised crime
  • The revocation of Kosovo's autonomy in 1989 reunited Albanians who began to develop sense of collective identity
  • Development of smuggling channels in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo influenced by specific circumstances
  • The war in which Kosovo Albanian army was fighting against a militarily superior contributed to the creation of a socio-political environment where smuggling (especially of weapons) was not perceived as harmful
  • For the purpose of arming the new groups, members of KLA established connections with relatives in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Sweden etc., who had already been involved in illicit activities, and established multiple channels for arm transport
drug kingpins and financing of kla
Drug kingpins and financing of KLA
  • Prior to the wars, around 75 % of all heroin destined to Europe went through Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia
  • The 1992-1995 wars redirected the heroin trade through Macedonia into Kosovo, where Albanian crime groups had control
  • A part of the money earned in these illicit operations was given to some allegedly humanitarian funds that were used to sponsor the activities of the KLA
  • Of almost DM 900 million that reached Kosovo between 1996 and 1999, big part was earned in drug trafficking
  • The Italian, Belgian and Norwegian case
criminal activities in kosovo
Criminal activities in Kosovo
  • While Kosovo has been a major transit point for trafficked persons, it has been increasingly turning into a final destination
  • UN, KFOR and international NGO staff present in Kosovo push the prices up and keep the business profitable
  • Kosovo loses an estimated US $18 million each year from cigarette smuggling alone, mainly in excise tax evasion
  • 50% of all fuel in Kosovo is smuggled in the province, particularly through border crossing with Montenegro
  • A March 2003 investigation revealed that of the 247 private vehicles checked, the documentation of 178 illegally registered ones was fraudulent
structure of albanian groups in the balkans
Structure of Albanian groups in the Balkans
  • In 1999 there were between 25-100 organised crime groups in Albania with a total number of participants between 500 and 2500
  • According to prosecutorial data, only 24 cases concerning the offence of criminal association have been started in Albania during recent years
  • Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia usually deal with groups with approximately 20-35 members
  • The most common structure of the Albanian criminal groups in the Balkans is hierarchical and clan-based (often homogeneous)
  • Indications of creation of flexible criminal networks that alter their structure according to activities
  • Groups operate on a local level and stay continuously in contact with each other which make it difficult to identify ruling groups of individuals
what about western europe 3 stages of evolution
What about Western Europe? (3 stages of evolution)
  • Arriving in Western Europe after the fall of communism (1991) and during the Kosovo conflict (1998-1999) as well as the fall of the pyramid schemes (1997)
  • Before 1996 very little was known about Albanian OC groups operating in Europe
  • In the period between 1998 and 2003, Albanian OC groups operating in Western Europe reached their culmination in the eyes of the public, the media and law enforcement agencies
  • After 2003 there is development of more sophisticated criminal structures that operate as business units
structure and modus operandi
Structure and modus operandi
  • During 1990’s hierarchical and homogeneous. Links between members were based on ‘loyalty’, ‘honour’ and clan traditions. Extremely violent.
  • After 2003, development of complicated organisations (criminal network, cluster) with fluid and flexible structures, less hierarchical and less homogeneous
  • Although the core group may consist mainly of Albanian speaking criminals, they tend to expand their networks and work closely with various ethnicities
  • It is common that Albanians who operate in one country live in a different country which makes the situation complicated
  • Methods deployed by criminal organisations have changed and have taken on board modern management techniques. Criminal organisations are reported to specialise in a specific part of a criminal network, such as transport
  • With regard to violence, Albanians today tend to use less violence in order to reduce the social impact of their crimes
criminal activities
Criminal activities
  • Exploitation of prostitution as a low cost activity
  • Involvement in multiple criminal activities is in the heart of Albanian criminality
  • Active mainly in the fields of organised thefts, drug trafficking, exploitation of prostitution and facilitation of illegal immigration
  • Albanians control a part of the immigration route through Belgium (mainly towards the UK). Many offenders are active in different crime fields, the income of the first (basic) activity feeding the second one, which needs important investments
culture and social control theories
Culture and social control theories
  • Social control theorists argue that the relevant question is not why do persons become involved in crime, but why do most persons confirm to societal norms?
  • Who defines societal norms? Are they the same as legal norms? Does law vary in cultural/social space?
  • “Like all human behaviour, violence and crime have to be viewed in the terms of the historical, social and cultural context from which they spring. Even the most horrific acts of brutality are not simply a product of an ‘evil mind’ but have unfolding personal logic behind them that draws upon accepted practices within particular subgroups within society”.
two dimensions of violence
Two dimensions of violence
  • Normative: good vs. bad
  • Legal: legal vs. illegal
  • Very often in Western eyes the two dimensions are merged together
  • Western Europe: violence as primitive, anarchic, arbitrary, pathological or antisocial
  • Albania: violence as a duty (patterned, directed, significant, normal and constitutive of the social)
society state and individual cultural norms vs legal norms
Society, state and individual: cultural norms vs. legal norms
  • Are they the same?
  • Official vs. non official normative system
  • The relation between values, norms and individual interest?
  • What is moral, what is legitimate and what is legal?
the albanian man of honor
The Albanian ‘Man of Honor’
  • One hypothesis is that the ability to use violence is the primary criterion for assessing the value of the Albanian ‘man of honor’
  • In Albanian context, ‘Woman is a sack made to endure’
  • Among a number of ethnic Albanians it is a cultural dept of honor to revenge offences personally without resorting the help of the state
  • ‘Taking blood’ as a moral duty
short history of the kanun laws
Short history of the Kanun laws
  • Lek Dukagjini (1410-1481) formalised the Kanun laws regulating Albanian community life (mainly north Albania and Kosovo)
  • The Kanun laws sets up the rules on which the Albanian culture is based, mainly honour and hospitality
  • The practice of these codes, dates back to 2000 to 3000 years ago and presents the fundamental customary law employed in almost all areas of Albanian settlement
  • Ghegs vs. Tosks (sub-cultures)
extract from the kanun
Extract from the Kanun
  • “There is no fine for an offence to honour. An offence to honour is never forgiven. The person dishonored has every right to avenge his honour; no pledge is given, no appeal is made to the Elders, no judgment is needed, no fine is taken. The strong man collects the fine himself. A man who has been dishonored is considered dead according to the Kanun” (2-600)
The conception of a guest as a demi-god

The conception of the women:

“Many men, particularly those from the north-eastern part of the country, still followed the traditional code - the Kanun- in which women are considered to be, and are treated as, chattel. Under the Kanun, a woman's duty is to serve her husband and to be subordinate to him in all matters.’Similarly, these same sections of Albanian society view women as lesser citizens, equating them in value to “half a man” or a “dog”

  • Since 2003, police has observed a third stage in the advancement of some Albanian OC groups
  • These criminal groups are on their way to reaching the highest echelons of organised crime by becoming key players in complex criminal networks
  • Although traditionally, Albanian OC groups were depicted as remarkably violent, hierarchical and homogeneous, these may no longer be their core characteristics
  • Creation of complicated organisations with fluid and flexible structures
  • Although the core group may consist mainly of Albanian-speaking criminals, they have tended to work closely with various ethnicities
  • Involvement in multiple criminal activities is at the heart of Albanian criminality
  • Adapting to the socio-political environment of WE countries and trying to keep lower profile and use less violence