TIRANA, Albania, November 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
Prime Minister Edi Rama today unveiled a major multi-agency plan to tackle organized crime, bring its leaders to justice and confiscate illegally-acquired assets.
Releasing a detailed report outlining the plan, the prime minister said the program will bring together all relevant departments, institutions and agencies with a view to ridding the nation of criminal elements which have developed and infiltrated Albanian society.
"This new anti-crime structure will be in charge of the most intensive and long-term operation ever undertaken against organized crime," he said. Called Operation Power of Law, the program was approved today by Albania's Council of Ministers. Implementation will be led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs together with a Central Task Force, appointed today by a prime ministerial order.
New judicial bodies and other law enforcement elements will be required at the national and local levels. The government will be seeking further assistance from international partners, including the EU and Europol, Interpol, neighbouring countries such as Italy and Greece, and the FBI in the United States.
The report Mr. Rama released acknowledged a number of weaknesses in the nation's past efforts to combat organized crime. It states:
"Organized crime has severely damaged the system of democratic, social and economic values of the country through the distortion of the market economy parameters. This situation and the failure of the criminal justice organs to fight it efficiently has created a problematic situation which is clearly perceived as such by the public. These results were reflected in periodic reports of the Albanian law agencies and in the monitoring reports or opinions of international partners of Albania over the years. Crime in general and especially criminal groups that commit offenses with the object of trafficking or illegal financial benefits have been and continue to be a serious threat to national security as well.
"Previous strategies and action plans which have envisaged such issues have taken only a partial approach, expressed mainly as a need and opportunity or as evidence to meet the interests of the daily political struggle or specific electoral interests."
Announcement of the program and release of the report follow last week's report by Italy's Guardia di Finanza showing a dramatic decline in Albanian cannabis cultivation, which has been the source of billions in illegal revenues to various criminal groups.
The Italian authorities' report was presented on Friday in Tirana to a conference of MPs, international diplomats and experts. It was based on aerial surveillance flights by Italy which revealed just 88 suspected cannabis plantations, compared with 2,086 the previous year.
"This represents major progress for our joint efforts with our Italian and European Union partners towards our goal of eradicating cannabis production in Albania once and for all," Prime Minister Rama said.
The Rama government has begun a number of initiatives aimed at tackling illegal drug production and trafficking, including the establishment of an Anti-Cannabis Task Force in January 2017. Chaired by the Prime Minister, the task force involves the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Justice, General Prosecutor's Office, State Police, General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering in the Ministry of Finance and the National Intelligence Service.
Fatmir Xhafaj, Albania's Minister for Internal Affairs, said his ministry together with local police forces have made major progress against the illicit drugs trade. However, he confirmed that the trans-shipment of imported drugs is the next challenge.
"What we're finding is that while domestic production is at last being reduced, the people and machinery previously devoted to the export of cannabis are now being deployed to import cannabis and other drugs and to re-export them. This is a growing problem which requires joint co-operation by all the nations involved - including Albania as a trans-shipment point, but also the producing and consuming countries," Mr Xhafaj said.
Following today's announcement, Prime Minister Rama said it should be clear how seriously his government takes the threat arising from organized crime. He said the new program will engage all parts of society with the police and the judicial system charged with detecting, trying and punishing offenders, and the rest of society engaged in programs of prevention.
He listed three main objectives:
1. Identification and destruction of organizations and criminal groups through the collection, exchange of information and interaction among law enforcement agencies and individuals.
2. Protection of the economy from infiltration by the products of crime and criminals.
3. Weakening the economic power of organized crime through confiscation of illegal assets and products of criminal activities.
For further information:
Director of Communications
Government of Albania
SOURCE Prime Minister's Office of Albania