Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fares, Part 1

We begin this short series of posts by reviewing a 1999 paper entitled And the Winner is . . . the Albanian Mafia by Frank Cilluffo and George Salmoiraghi. While reviewing and commenting on it, we will look at some more recent information from Europol, and we have a quick quote from a paper on Afghanistan's heroin economy to give us some context.

From Albanian Mafia:

With the signing of peace treaties and the deployment of NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, the time has come to crown a victor. While NATO may have achieved its objectives in the "war"—forcing Serbia to agree to remove its troops, allowing the Kosovars back into their homes, and establishing a peacekeeping force—the real winner is the Albanian mafia.

It cost NATO about $5 billion to prosecute its air campaign, with the United States shouldering most of the burden. Peacekeeping efforts will cost at least an additional $3 billion a year, and in the days and years to come the victors will dole out about $50 billion for reconstruction. Not everyone, however, spent money. Scavenging amid the rubble of ethnic conflict, Albanian criminal clans known as fares, profited from the war and grew in breadth, depth, size, and influence. They extended their reach, entrenched themselves in government, and essentially usurped government authority. As a result of the fares' success, Albania is left teetering on the edge of lawlessness and ungovernability.

Smuggling is the Albanian mafia's core competency, and over the past decade the Albanians have steadily come to dominate smuggling to and within Europe, even overshadowing their erstwhile mentors, the Italian mafia. Smugglers are smugglers, and the commodity on any given day shifts with demand, whether it is narcotics, weapons, fuel, stolen goods—or people. And the current conflict opened the floodgates of people seeking to leave Kosovo for safety. That in turn generated a smuggling boom so great that the Albanian clans had to turn desperate customers away. The brutal fares, aided by the tacit consent of the Albanian government and a corrupt police force, were smuggling more than 10,000 Kosovar refugees per month during the war. And the end of hostilities has not closed the valves. Fearing retaliation, Serbs are now the ones migrating from Kosovo. Ever equal-opportunity employers, some Albanian criminal clans are tapping into this new market, smuggling their sworn enemies to safety—if the price is right.

This only begins to address the human-trafficking problem. As I addressed in a previous series of posts, women are brought to the region, often from the former USSR, and forced to work in prostitution -- Albanian organized crime is a major player in the sex slave industry. Many of the clients who use the services of these trafficked women are from the various international groups that are monitoring Kosovo and conducting "peacekeeping" duties.

Let me pause here to take completely out of context a quote that is from a 2004 paper entitled The Afghan-rim's Heroin Economy; the paper was obviously addressing problems in South Asia, but the quote has wider applications:

1.3 Concept of Criminal Opportunity

It is critical to come to an understanding of the concept of criminal opportunity. We are dealing here with drug trafficking, human trafficking, and money laundering on an international scale. The perpetrators of these transnational criminal offences are organised crime by definition. This form of crime is essentially opportunistic in nature; taking advantage of new criminal opportunities is a significant part of the illicit business. The methods of transport, methods of concealment, the identity of the human trafficking victims, the extent of false document usage and a vast array of other features of these crimes are based on opportunity and often only limited by imagination.

What arises from this concept of criminal opportunity is that often we are at fault for creating the opportunities of which criminals are only too ready to take advantage . When one country of the region does not police an issue as closely as others, that creates criminal opportunity. When available assistive technologies for cargo inspection are not applied, this creates criminal opportunity. When accountability is not policed rigorously, criminal opportunity comes home to roost. When road freight volumes increase well beyond the capacity of the inspection authorities, criminal groups are inexorably drawn. Criminal opportunity is about exploiting weaknesses, many of which come about through our own actions or indeed omissions. It is important in assessing likely criminal threats that we identify those weaknesses that may be exploited for they will surely be identified and become targets for criminal opportunism.

This opportunism is not in any way restricted to defined national borders. While there are certainly geographic constraints, as a rule it is necessary for us to understand that borders mean little to traffickers of the various types, except insofar as they become one more obstacle to be overcome. If one country in the region comes down hard on precursor chemical smuggling, but the next country has a porous border, the latter will become the new route. As important as national systems and processes are, it is critical to also have regional systems and processes. Importantly it is also essential to have regional standards, one country lying below the standard will simply present the criminal opportunity to circumvent each of the other nations’ systems and processes. When dealing with transnational organised crime, the whole is only as strong as the weakest link. We must be better at not just working as individual States against the problem, but be better at working together on the problem, enforcing between and on ourselves the standards that the situation demands.

This "Concept of Criminal Opportunity" is worth keeping in mind as we continue with Albanian Mafia:

Although refugee smuggling is not a new industry in this region, Kosovar Albanians were a more profitable haul than the more routine human cargo comprising Kurds, Chinese, Albanians, or other nationalities that migrated with the opening up of Eastern Europe. In search of a better life, Kosovars paid their smugglers up to $900 per adult—a substantial increase over the usual charge of $400—and $250 per child. Following their usual practice, the Albanians varied their rates depending on the destination, from the equivalent of economy class for refugees going to Italy, to business class for passage to Germany or Switzerland, and first class to England. Prior to the war, according to Europol, people smuggling was more profitable than drug smuggling and was less risky because the penalties for getting caught were less severe. Smuggling people to the European Union alone was grossing organized crime between $3 billion and $4 billion a year even before NATO bombs began falling, making it one of the fastest growing businesses in the Balkans.

And, as I pointed out in a previous post, many organized crime groups in the Balkans actually get their start with forced prostitution. It takes little investment of resources, but becomes a cash cow yielding capital that can be invested in arms, narcotics or whatever else.

The fares' financial success in human trafficking and the swell of illegal immigration worries European governments. Europol set up a unit specifically to address the smuggling problem, but Europe does not have a clear means of dealing with the influx of people applying for asylum who have clandestinely infiltrated the various countries. Following the 1995 Schengen Accords, entry into one EU country ensured travelers free range through the various participating nations without having to identify themselves at checkpoints or provide identification to border guards. Smugglers and criminal clans gained unrestricted access to greater Europe by seeking out and exploiting the weakest link in the chain, the latest border crossing where security had become lax.

Criminal Opportunity....

Putting this 1999 information in context, we have here a quote from the beginning of an Europol report entitled EUROPOL DRUGS 2006, the information of which appears to have been current as of 2005:

With a variety of European Union drug production and entry points, there is a large-scale intra-European Union trafficking of all types of drugs. Cannabis from Morocco, for instance, is transported along the South-North axis, from Spain all the way up to Denmark and Sweden. Synthetic drugs produced in the Netherlands and Belgium are finding their way to markets in all the Member States, as is the case for cocaine that mainly enters the territory of the European Union via Spain, the Netherlands or Belgium. Criminal opportunities for this intra-European Union trafficking have been assisted by the abolition of internal border controls, by differences in legislation in the various Member States and sometimes insufficient levels of international law enforcement and judicial co-operation.

"Criminal opportunities for this intra-European Union trafficking have been assisted by the abolition of internal border controls...."

They no longer think of the countries of Europe as individual nations; their borders are no longer international boundaries, but rather "internal borders". And this "abolition of internal border controls" favors international organized crime.

Criminal Opportunity....

Just like what is happening as we move towards an American Union, an African Union....

Continuing now with Albanian Mafia:

Many ethnic Albanians who claimed to be refugees and sought assistance from European states were not Kosovars at all; they were actually illegal Albanian immigrants. After paying their fee, the would-be refugees were provided with canned speeches to recite to immigration officers, allowing the Albanians to recount the horrors they claim to have survived. These people rob entry slots from legitimate refugees who suffered these atrocities, burden the system with frivolous applications, and strain the patience of the processing agencies. Britain alone expects to see a record 45,000 immigrants as a result of the Balkans instability, and they will cost the government an additional $2 billion a year.

"After paying their fee, the would-be refugees were provided with canned speeches to recite to immigration officers, allowing the Albanians to recount the horrors they claim to have survived."

It is worth recalling all the stories of Serb atrocities, how the US bombed Serbia to prevent a genocide, and so on. Afterwards, international investigators got into Kosovo and found no evidence of mass graves. They did find graves and bodies, but both ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians were represented among the victims and among the likely perpetrators. Even more incriminatingly for the Albanian mafia, as I pointed out in a previous post, Kosovo in 1999, Part 3,

Ironically Robert Gelbard, America's special envoy to Bosnia, had described the KLA last year [1998] as "terrorists". Christopher Hill, America's chief negotiator and architect of the Rambouillet agreement, "has also been a strong critic of the KLA for its alleged dealings in drugs."[3] Moreover, barely a few two months before Rambouillet, the US State Department had acknowledged (based on reports from the US Observer Mission) the role of the KLA in terrorising and uprooting ethnic Albanians:

" ... the KLA harass or kidnap anyone who comes to the police, ... KLA representatives had threatened to kill villagers and burn their homes if they did not join the KLA [a process which has continued since the NATO bombings]... [T]he KLA harassment has reached such intensity that residents of six villages in the Stimlje region are "ready to flee."[4]

Ethnic Albanians were "ethnically cleansed" by the KLA!

Organized crime at its best -- wipe out those among your ethnic (or other) group who might object to your criminal activities, blame it on the authorities who are trying to shut down your operation, and then call in NATO airstrikes on the authorities. The net result: independence is declared, with organized crime as the government, in a phenomenon known as State Capture (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Continuing now with Albanian Mafia:

From a humanitarian perspective, human cargo may be the most disturbing of commodities smuggled by the Albanian clans, but it is certainly not their only source of revenue. In 1997 Interpol stated that "Kosovo Albanians hold the largest share of the heroin market in Switzerland, in Austria, in Belgium, in Germany, in Hungary, in the Czech Republic, in Norway, and in Sweden." The head of Sweden's antidrug unit believes that the gangs supplied "hundreds, maybe thousands, of kilos of heroin" to the Scandinavian countries. The arrest of one or two major players provides only a month or two of respite before another clan picks up the reins. Albanian clans command approximately 70 percent of Germany’s and Switzerland's heroin market. The authorities in London noted the increase in heroin traveling through central Europe.

"In 1997 Interpol stated that 'Kosovo Albanians hold the largest share of the heroin market in Switzerland, in Austria, in Belgium, in Germany, in Hungary, in the Czech Republic, in Norway, and in Sweden.' The head of Sweden's antidrug unit believes that the gangs supplied 'hundreds, maybe thousands, of kilos of heroin' to the Scandinavian countries."

There is the heroin connection.

From John McCain armed Kosovo Islamic terrorists (see McCain's Ties to Terrorists -- and Heroin Traffickers?):

"He did everything that we asked of him, including arming the KLA", said Albanian lobbyist Joe DioGuardi. The Albanians collected one million dollars for the presidential campaign of this senator.

Americans of Albanian heritage collected a million dollars in one evening for the presidential campaign of Republican Senator John McCain, said the Albanian American Civic League yesterday, the lobby group headed by former Congressman Joe DioGuardi. A reception for McCain was held January 22 at the Saint Regis Hotel in Manhatten, and the senator, who is now leading in the runoff for the Republican party candidacy in the November elections, cut his campaign in Florida by one day to attend this gathering.

"Even in 1998 when we had problems with Milosevic, McCain did everything that we asked of him to the benefit of the Albanian people, including arming the KLA", announced DioGuardi. "We are American Albanians and we need a leader who will strengthen this country... We must support John McCain because he did everything we asked of him for Kosovo, from supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army to supporting the independence of Kosovo. Two years ago he spoke in Brussels and said that independence is the only solution", concluded this former congressman who has been fighting for the independence of Kosovo and Metohija for more than twenty years.

As quoted above from The Afghan-rim's Heroin Economy: "When accountability is not policed rigorously, criminal opportunity comes home to roost."

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