U.S DOS Report on Money Laundering: Albania Made No Significant Progress Due to Corruption and Organized Crime Networks

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 3, 2021 16:51

U.S DOS Report on Money Laundering: Albania Made No Significant Progress Due to Corruption and Organized Crime Networks

The United States Department of State published a report on Money Laundering in 2020, where regarding Albania it concludes that the government “made no significant progress toward thwarting money laundering and financial crimes in 2020. Albania remains vulnerable to money laundering due to corruption, organized crime networks, and weak legal and government institutions.” The report goes on by saying that “The country has a large cash economy and informal sector, with significant money inflows from abroad in the form of remittances and diverse investments. Major proceeds-generating crimes in Albania include drug trafficking, tax evasion, and smuggling. Albanian criminal organizations have links to networks operating in Europe and South America,” adding that the country registered some progress with its anti-Mafia confiscation law in the case of Klement Balili.

While acknowledging that the ongoing judicial reforms have improved Albania’s prospects for addressing the sensitive issue of money laundering, the report suggests that “these efforts, however, are still hampered by capacity challenges in recently established justice institutions and pervasive corruption that undermines the rule of law.” Some of the major sources of money laundering in Albania for the moment are narcotics trafficking and other organized crime activity, and the geographical position of the country and the presence of organized crime in Western Europe and South America “increase vulnerabilities.” Meanwhile, the most prevalent methods of laundering illicit proceeds are “real estate investments and business development projects.”

After making a quick summary of the approved anti-illicit enrichment legislation and the mechanisms to target illicit assets, the report says that “meeting evidentiary requirements for final asset seizure remains challenging.” While legal and policy changes “have improved Albania’s ability to combat money laundering and financial crimes […] implementation has been inconsistent.” The number of money laundering prosecution remains low despite “a sizeable number of money laundering investigations in recent years.”

Another problem remains the fact that Albania has a substantial black market for smuggled goods that is facilitated by weak border controls and custom enforcement. Also, “courts often refuse to convict for money laundering absent a conviction for a predicate offence.” In its recommendations, the report suggests that Albania “must implement existing laws effectively and continue to develop the capacity of its police and prosecutors to focus on corruption, money laundering, and economic crimes.” The implementation of the criminal code reforms in 2016 and 2017 is also still a challenge. The report concludes by saying that Albania had success against “organized crime figures in 2020,” giving as examples the confiscation of 40% of the assets of Klement Balili and the fact that the prosecutors seized Ylli Ndroqi’s numerous businesses, including Ora News. According to the report, Ylli Ndroqi “is suspected of organizing narcotics trafficking in Turkey and Italy.”

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 3, 2021 16:51