A crackdown on smugglers who enabled a thousand Albanians to enter Britain, the US and Canada has resulted in 39 arrests. Fighting crime tops Albania's agenda as it prepares for EU accession talks.
Police chief Ardi Veliu said Saturday his Albanian police liaising with the EU and US agencies had made the multiple arrests, but were still looking for another dozen suspects, including two Bulgarians.
For at least €8,000 ($9,800), the smuggled Albanians had obtained falsified travel and identity documents of EU countries so they could enter North America and Britain, which lies outside Europe's nominally borderless Schengen Zone.
Some had also traveled via the Dominican Republic or South American countries to gain entry to the US and Canada, Veliu added.
The smuggling network comprised seven groups operating in Albania, Bulgaria, Spain, France, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Britain, Ireland, the US and Canada, Veliu said.
To reach the US and Canada, the smuggled people had paid between €19,500 and €24,400.
Police working with Europol and Interpol had confiscated computers, cellphones, vehicles, cash, various documents and weapons, Veliu said.
Shaping up for accession
Fighting crime remains a key task for Albania, a NATO member since 2009, which also hopes to begin talks in June to eventually enter the European Union.
Albanian prosecutors said on Friday the mayor of Lezhe in northwestern Albania and 11 other officials had been arrested for reportedly selling public coastal land via fictitious owners in bids to earn substantial money from tourist resort developers.
ipj/jm (AP, Reuters)