The Albanian authorities on Saturday announced the arrest of 39 people, including police officers, and the dismantling of a large criminal network accused of illegally passing more than 1,000 Albanians into the United States, Canada and Britain.
“It turns out that seven structured criminal groups operating in Albania, Bulgaria, Spain, France, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Britain, Ireland, the US and Canada have enabled the smuggling,” said Ardi Veliu, the chief of Albanian police at a press conference.
“These criminal groups, made up of Albanian nationals and foreigners, illegally sent at least 1,000 Albanian nationals to the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada,” he said. These migrations took place during 2017. “Dozens of migrants have not arrived [at destination] because they were abandoned by traffickers in Latin American countries,” said Ardi Veliu.
Among the 39 suspects arrested are four police officers who were detained for abusing their position by working with the smugglers and not properly inspecting the smuggled nationals’ documents. Twelve other suspects are wanted, including two Bulgarians.
Candidates for immigration paid just over $ 12,000 to the United Kingdom to travel to the United Kingdom, and $33,000 to $46,000 to arrive in the United States and Canada, it was said.
A large number of fake passports, stamps and various falsified documents have been seized. Travel agencies in Tirana and Lezha suspected of facilitating the smuggling operation are also being investigated.
Police are still searching for 12 others in connection with the case.
The operation “demonstrates the increased credibility of the Albanian police, prosecution, and other law enforcement agencies to international partners,” authorities said.
The fight against all sorts of trafficking and organised crime is crucial for Albania, which in 2014 obtained the status of candidate for membership of the European Union and whose authorities hope to open accession negotiations in 2018.