‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 15, 2019 16:40

‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities

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  • These negotiations were reportedly led by the head of the Albanian State Police Ardi Veliu. It was to Veliu that Balili handed himself in on Tuesday, at 9.45 am, in an area between Saranda and Finiqi.

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TIRANA, Jan. 15 – Klement Balili, one of Albania’s most notorious crime scene protagonists, handed himself in to the authorities on Tuesday, after almost two years of playing hide and seek with justice.

Balili has been listed along some of the Balkans’ most sought-after criminals, leading an illegal network also operating in some EU countries, mainly Greece.

The Voice of America reported that albanian police has been under negotiation over the last year with Balili’s family members to have him surrender, in addition to operational actions.

These negotiations were reportedly led by the head of the Albanian State Police Ardi Veliu. It was to Veliu that Balili handed himself in on Tuesday, at 9.45 am, in an area between Saranda and Finiqi.

The exchange was witnessed by two of Balili’s family members and he was later driven off by Veliu to Tirana.

“Albanian police finalized today a long, complicated and very important operation for the surrender of Klement Balili, after an operational tracking process, in cooperation with the secrete state service and our international partners,” Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said.

His surrender comes at a time when the serious crimes prosecution has just completed the investigations and has sent Balili’s file to trial.

Balili is accused of “narcotics trafficking” committed in collaboration, in the form of a structured criminal group, “participation in the structured criminal group”, “refusal to declare, non-declaration, concealment or false declaration of assets”, and for “money laundering.”

Balil’s name emerged during an investigation finalized in early May 2016 as part of an operation undertaken by Greek authorities in cooperation with the US DEA, where over 670 kilograms of marijuana were seized on the island of Zakynthos in eastern Greece .
Implicated in this operation was the Albanian police, as well as the authorities of several European Union countries where the network operated were allegedly, one of whose heads was Balili, dubbed by Greek media as the “Balkans’ Escobar.”

As a big number of the criminal organization’s members and leaders were caught in Greece, Balili managed to escape.

He initially appeared publicly in Saranda denying the charges, and then disappeared without a trace. This kick-started a long-standing ping-pong game among the Albanian institutions, with the police claiming to have demanded a warrant from the prosecution, while the latter had explained that it could not act for as long as the investigation did not provide evidence for the illegal activity in Albania,which is why it had requested evidence from Greece.

Balili’s file arrived from Greece late last year, and a couple of police operations to capture him at the end of December proved unsuccessful.

From the very beginning, strong doubts accompanied the Balili case.

Greek media such as Greek CNN at the time clashed with the Albanian Embassy to Athens after publishing a paper which, referring to the sources of Greek authorities, stresed that Albanian police officers had declared to Greek partners during a secret meeting in Albania that they could not arrest the “Albanian baron” because he enjoyed political protection.

Balili was appointed director of the Saranda Regional Transport Directorate in Saranda in 2014. One of Balili’s nephews was then elected mayor of Delvina Municipality, south of the country, under the Socialist Movement for Integration leadership, while his brother was also SMI coordinator in the country’s south.

The Balili brothers have had numerous commercial activities, ranging from transport services to those of object security, or fishing.

In 2015, they inaugurated a very expensive investment which turned the former Saranda Labor Camp into a luxury hotel. High state officials also attended the inauguration ceremony, while last year, quite ironically, most of Balili’s assets were sequestered.
Klement Balili’s arrest was considered an important test for Albanian authorities by former US Ambassador Donald Lu, who in several public speeches mentioned his name as a sign of Albania’s challenges in the area of ​​public order and security.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 15, 2019 16:40