Saturday, December 10, 2011

Exclusive report by Gjergj Thanasi: Albanian biometric passports & Links to International Terrorist Rings

Ioannis Michaletos
10 Dec 2011

In the following exclusive investigative report, the acclaimed journalist from Tirana-Albania, Gjergj Thanasi outlines the serious security issues relating to the Albanian biometric passport system and the links with international organized crime and terrorist rings and with the Iranian intelligence establishment especially. 
 The Problematic Albanian Biometric Passports and the Links to International Terrorist Rings
 By Gjergj Thanasi
The equipment of the Albanians with biometric identity cards and passports was a must in order to have Albanians travelling in European Union countries without visa restriction. The removal of travel restriction was a kind of an European  gift to Albanians on the eve of Christmas  2010.Such passports are highly reliable and a tough barrier to criminals and terrorists penetrating Europe under false names. The system is really false proof. The only way to evade the system is to collude with the Albanian authorities issuing the passports, thus stealing the identity of somebody else. 

Unfortunately this is precisely what happened in Albania. Almost from the very beginning Albanian emigration police as well as several European border police controls  detected individuals equipped with regular Albanian biometric passports having ‘borrowed” the identity of somebody else. Judging by the covering of the Albanian media such falsified biometric passports are almost a daily occurrence. 

The bearers of falsified Albanian passports range from ethnic Albanians citizens of the Republic of Kosova(they still need a visa to travel to Europe), to Albanians being under expulsion or travel bans in European countries. The new identity help them to travel and stay in Europe up to 90 days in succession without any difficulty. There are cases when even convicted criminals, or wanted individuals (Albanian citizens) are equipped with a biometric passport with a new identity, thus evading justice and facilitating their criminal activity in Europe as well as in Albania. Only  casual finger prints checks by one or another European law enforcing agency has resulted in pin pointing  individuals with a criminal record or even  wanted persons having a new identity. Albanian media like the newspaper Investigimi (an article by Durim Sula) and Durres Bulevard(an article by Dr. Idriz Tafa) have also made public of evidence that terrorists from Yemen and elements of Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the so called Quds Force are in possession of  Albanian biometric passports with typical Albanian names and surnames.

Mr. Armand Teliti the Director General of the Albanian General Register Office during a session of the security sub comity of the Albanian Parliament answering the questions of MP Gazmend Oketa  (wright wing) and MP Gamir Bizhga (left wing) admitted that Albanian authorities have detected over 500 cases of biometric passports issued to persons with a “borrowed”  identity. The Albanian media has directly accused Mr. Teliti of being part of the system issuing such problematic passports .Up to now  only the bearers of such passports have been detained by the emigration police. In a couple of cases the civil servants of remote villages register offices and employees of Aleat-Safran concessionary company have also been arrested. Such cases are under trial or have received short term prison sentences as well as fines according to Albania law.

No body but the gang issuing the false passports knows the exact number and identity of the bearers of such false biometric passports. According to the newspaper Investigimi American security specialists are actively collaborating with Albanian Secrete Service SHIK to identify Iranian citizens equipped with Albanian biometric passports. The newspaper quoting Albanian Secret Service sources links the murder and the burning of the body of Isa Copa a high ranking officer of Albanian Secret Service (late  October 2011 in the outskirts of Durres the main port of Albania)with the affair of the Iranian citizens equipped with Albanian biometric passports and bearing Albanian names and surnames.

This is not the first scandal concerning Albanian passports. In 2002 the deputy minister of the interiors Bujar Himci and col. Veli Myftari Director General of the Albania Police force were arrested for funds embezzlement amounting to four million USD concerning the issuing of the Albanian passports. They landed in prison after the official complaint of Euroget an American company which was unlawfully prevented from bidding for the production of the Albanian passports. The claim of this company was strongly supported by the Charles Levesque the then economic officer of the Us Embassy in Tirana.
It is obvious, in this case top civil servants ended in prison only for funds embezzlement, while now we have serious allegation of collusion with terrorists and yet only small fry is facing justice.

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