Int’l airport under attack, national security questioned

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 9, 2019 18:22

Int’l airport under attack, national security questioned

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said in a press conference that took place 24 hours after the robbery that the Chinese company in charge of Rinas security neglected its contract and failed to ensure a proper security system.

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TIRANA, April 10 - Close to €10 million were allegedly stolen during an armed robbery on Tuesday at the National “Mother Teresa” Airport (Rinas), in the outskirts of Tirana.

According to media reports, everything happened very fast, as three people inside a van from the Tax Agency Inspectorate managed to enter Rinas Airport around 3 p.m., pretending to be tax agents.

They were further reported to have demolished the guarding entrances by breaking through the fire emergency door and driving to the Austrian Airlines plane, which was loading up cash from different banks through an armored private security agency car.

They then managed to get inside the plane, at the luggage area, from where they stole cash reported to amount to 10 million euros.

It was reported the robbers had silicon masks on that made made their face identification impossible and wore military uniforms, while bearing Kalashnikovs, guns and hand grenades.

On their way out of the airport, after the robbery alarm had been rung, the robbers also encountered a Rapid Intervention Force patrol car, engaging in a shootout that left one of the robbers dead, while the others managed to escape.

The police found two vehicles in its chase after the robbers, one of which was set on fire.

While multiple units have been put in pursuit of the robbers, it is reported four banning orders have so far been issued, while at least forty people have been accompanied for interrogation.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the robbery, the issue of airport security has come under fire by all political actors in the country, while the government blamed the Chinese company running the airport for the robbery.

This is the third robbery taking place at Rinas or in its proximity.


Media reveals dead robber was sought by Greek justice after escaping Trikalla prison

On Wednesday, the identity of the robber who ended up dead after the shootout was revealed as being Admir Murataj, a high-risk individual who is also believed to have been the brain behind the most recent Rinas robbery.

Murataj has used several fake identities and was also allegedly being sought by the Greek justice for escaping the Greek Trikalla prison six years ago (2013), where he was sentenced for carrying another armed robbery.

After escaping, he had returned to Albania, where he began a series of heists whose main objective were robbing banks during their cash transportation.

The first heist happened in December 2015, close to villages Berxulle and Domje, where cash from a second-level bank was stolen.

The second heist happened on February 2017, when robbers ambushed a blinded car transporting money to Rinas.

Grenades and guns were found in Murataj’s body on Tuesday, while some media have reported he might have been shot dead by the other robbers on the way out of the airport.

Murataj’s brother spoke for the media on Wednesday, saying Admir was only a tool in the hands of the heist’s real organizers, who he said are still to be uncovered.

Murataj’s partners managed to escape the police by using a third car, which police forces found on Wednesday inside a tunnel.

An operation has been ongoing since the day of the heist, while police has reported the robbers have been identified.


Gov’t blames Chinese concessionaire for security breach

Tuesday’s robbery raised major security concerns over Albania’s sole international airport, especially since this is the third robbery taking place there or in its proximity.

Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said in a press conference that took place 24 hours after the robbery that the Chinese company in charge of Rinas security neglected its contract and failed to ensure a proper security system.

“The concessionaire has not only refused to comply with the numerous State Police requests to take measures in terms of physical security, but in many cases has not even cared to at least formally reply to official correspondence,” Lleshaj said.

Further on, Lleshaj said that all measures to be taken by the State Police following this event will make sure to guarantee national security, as well as the safety of life and property.

“Regarding the dynamics of this event, I have to say that the rapid, professional and determined State Police reaction resulted in the perpetrators of the attack leaving behind numerous material evidence which are now subject to the relevant procedures,” Lleshaj said.

According to Lleshaj, the troubled relationship with the Chinese company running Rinas began after the 2016 robbery.

Through a twitter post, Prime Minister Edi Rama said “the Chinese company which bought the airport from the previous one failed to guarantee security. The Albanian state will accept no justification from the company and will take control of the external perimeter and internal security.”

However, the Chinese company also reacted to the accusations, calling them “inaccurate” and a “misinformation of the public and blame, as a recurring scenario, for a heavy accusation that does cannot stand on the shoulders of a foreign concessionaire without sidelining Concession Contract requirements that Tirana International Airport needs meet daily with regard to airport security.”

Regarding statements that the company failed to notify the robbery in time or reply to official correspondence, the company states that it was “correct in fulfilling its duties in relation to the event according to all the rules and procedures. The investigative authorities have been handed over all the documents proving that this notification was made in time towards the operational police station in Rinas.”

Following the polemics, it was reported on Wednesday that army forces will be engaged from now on to ensure the airport is secure, while the police role and responsibilities will increase.


President: “Recurring robberies indicate severe lack of security institutions”

In an official statement released by the presidency, President Ilir Meta said Rinas security was also the subject of conversation of the National Security Council one year ago.

“Based on the preliminary reports followed by the responsible institutions, I have raised in particular the concern about the lack of clear responsibilities on security at Mother Teresa Airport and the lack of access and coordination for the proper intervention of the State Police in case of,” stressed Meta.

According to Meta, everything that was decided during that NSC meeting was officially delegated to all responsible institutions and all NSC members according to the respective responsibilities, on June 8, 2018.

“Among these tasks, an urgent establishment of a joint working group under the direction of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy has been requested for the treatment and final solution of all security issues at the Mother Teresa Airport, as evidenced also during the robbery which took place within the airport.”


Opposition: “The state has fallen”

For the Albanian opposition, the airport robbery is a clear indicator that “the state has fallen.”

“When in Rinas, which is supposed to be the area with the highest security in the country, an armed robbery is carried out on an international line plane in the middle of the day, everyone understands at what level is the police and at what level is the order and public security” said Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, who in the evening called the deployment of military armed forces in the airport’s vicinity “unconstitutional and illegal.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Socialist Movement for Integration parliamentary group Petrit Vasili, said earlier in the day that “Albania's image has suffered an irreparable shock yesterday. Order is going from bad to worse. And instead of reflecting, the state is looking to remove the guarantees and responsibilities, clearly indicating that the security of the country is in the hands of the Lord, or rather in the hands of the criminals, but not in the hands of the state, whose sole duty is to make their lives easier, instead of harder.”


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 9, 2019 18:22