ANALYSIS
Kosovo Underworld Rising
By Ioannis Michaletos | Blog
January 27, 2008

February 2008, seems to highlight an important landmark in the history of the Kosovo Province of Serbia. The secessionist supporters both Albanians and elements of the international community are eager to establish an independent state by instigating a fait accompli, so as to prevent the negative reactions of the public opinion who seems to hesitate for such an action.

An interesting aspect of the culminations relating to Kosovo’s status, is the classified reports by intelligence agencies such as the German BND, that have pointed out towards the creation of a “Mafia state” in the heart of the Balkans, that will ultimately assist the proliferation of organized crime activities in Europe. In a 67 page report that was published on the 22nd of February 2005, BND analysts concluded first of all that there is “Close interaction between the leading members of the Kosovo-Albanian society and the domestic & international underworld currently domiciled in Pristina”.  Moreover “The criminal networks don’t support the creation of a stable political and economic environment, since that will reduce their clout”.  Thus the crime kingpins “Want to acquire elevated positions within the apparatus of the provisional government and influence directly the politicians”. In short organized crime groups in Kosovo are in the position of dictating the rules of the game in case the Province becomes independent. Note however that BND characterizes Kosovo as “A critical region for the transportation of narcotics from the East to Western Europe”.  Common knowledge suggests that such a state will base its economic survival into continuing its lucrative use as a contraband paradise for illegal commodities.

What is more interesting is the attest by BND of the “Direct involvement of political figures in Kosovo with the Mafia”. Judging by the fact that 16,000 KFOR troops and numerous agents are established already in Kosovo, one wonders what will be the future once independence prevails in the Province.

The UN police agents had already noted in reports dated back in 2004-2005 the involvement of Ramous Haradinaj in “Drugs, fuel trafficking, racketeering and extortion”. BND in its turn asserts that the Haradinaj team which is based in Decani “Profits from all kinds of illegal actions. It numbers some 100 individuals and controls the local municipality”. The Central Intelligence Unit of the UN, back in 2003 reported that Haradinaj was supported by the USA in 2000, when he run into trouble because of an inter-Albanian rivalry that broke out as a turf war. He then established the “Coalition for the future of Kosovo” and became a Prime Minister in 2004. His tenure lasted just 3 months and subsequently he delivered himself to the Hague charged with war crimes against the civilian Serbian and Roma population during 1999.  Again, political pressure exercised by the State Department –And in contrast with the prudent stance by the other services of the US Government- had him provisionally released. His case represents a clear cut message that criminal organizations in Kosovo can flourish despite international presence.

Further, Hashim Thaci, is being reported by BND as “a person with links with the Albanian and Czech Mafias in 2001 and in 2003 his business encounters involved money laundering. “  He is also categorized as a “Well known criminal figure and a key contact of all criminal networks in Kosovo that handles personally excessive amounts of cash.”

Kosovo Islamic links have been numerously reported and the following detail is just another pin point in the overall framework. The director of “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society” in Pristina, Othman A.O. Alhaidar used to run several “charities” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, starting with the “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society,” General Kuwaiti Aid Committee, '”Dar El-Bir” of UAE, “Yhia Al-Turas,” and “World Islamic Charity.” He was investigated by SFOR/EUFOR in 2005 on suspicion of sending volunteers from Kosovo-Metohija and Albania to Iraq.

Authors such as Christopher Deliso, Stephan  Schwartz and Shaul Shay, have already connected the dots in relation to the penetration of the Kosovo society by a plethora of Islamic organizations that seek to establish a foothold and expect eagerly the declaration of independence, certainly more than the European governments. In Priznen Islamic NGO’s hand out sums of 300-400 Euros per month to moderate Albanian Muslims that seek financial assistance and demand in return adherence in the stricter Islamic mores as they are exercised in the Middle East. Radio stations and DVD clubs are producing Albanian songs with Middle Eastern rhythm and promote Islamic books, whilst there are various indications that the security apparatus of the provisional government has been infiltrated by security agents of Middle Eastern states. Finally the sheer size of the Arab capital in such a poor and underdeveloped land in Europe is another factor that could be used for a complete takeover of this region over the coming years.

The Kosovo experience has been up to date, a great disappointment for the international community. The UN administered territory has not been able to withstand the all-pervading influence of the organized crime. Despite numerous acts of violence and a very high homicide rate; very few convictions have been handed out to culprits, none of those was a member of the organized crime either. Nowadays the existence of regular heroin supply from Afghanistan, and the control by the “Albanian Mafia” of the Balkan route , has enabled it to obtain a large capital base that is laundered mainly though the construction centre in Albania and the use of offshore financial centers. Actually the largest enterprise in terms of sales and profits in South Eastern Europe is the Albanian organized crime.

The Islamic producers of narcotics and especially heroin (Afghans, Central Asians), the Islamic managers (Pakistanis, Iranians, Arabs) and the Semi-Islamic distributors (Turks, Albanians), further tight their business bonds, as long as the Balkan Route remains uncontrolled and the UN does not take any kind of practical action to end this. It is interesting to note that it has been reported by on the ground analysts, that “brides of Albanian-Kosovo descent marry Arab and Pakistani drug barons in order to create global Islamic crime families.” Certainly this is a development unique in the European underworld scene, apart from a similar mode of operation between the Sicilian and Corsican Mafias in the 1950’s.

In a nutshell there could be not tangible solution to the problems concerning South Eastern Europe, if the international community does not invest considerable political capital in combating with the threat that Kosovo-Albanian groups pose. There might not be a state, albeit they form one of the most important aspects when one wants to assess in a balanced way the actual state of affairs in the Balkans. In any other case, an independence move will not only deteriorate USA-Russian relations, but it will also result in a first class degradation of the European security, which will have to face a greater pressure from the asymmetrical threat the Kosovo Mafias pose presently.